Saturday, 27 December 2014

Simple things that reduce stroke risk

By: Chioma Umeha


Studies show that that 20 per cent often die when they are attacked by stroke, while 40 per cent are at risk of being disabled with 25 per cent chance severely disabled. Confirming this, Dr. David Spence, director of the Stroke-Prevention Center at the Robarts Research Institute in Canada, said that one of approximately 600,000 Americans who have stroke dies. Spence also added that if you have stroke, then, “your chance of dying is 20 percent-but you have a 40 percent chance of being disabled and a 25 percent chance of being severely disabled.” 

An ischemic stroke—the kind that affects most men—occurs when an artery to the brain is blocked by arterial plaque that has broken loose and caused a blood clot. In fact, it is just like a heart attack, only instead of heart cells dying for lack of blood, brain cells are kicking off-thousands of brain cells. Perhaps paralyzing half of your body; or slurring your speech; or even plunging you into senility. But a “brain attack” is not inevitable. David Wiebers, a professor of Neurology at the Mayo Clinic and author of Stroke-Free for Life noted: “50 to 80 percent of strokes can be prevented.”  Wiebers further observed that there are simple steps one can take from age 25 to 35 to prevent stroke. He said: “Making the simple choices at 25, 35, or 45 years of age can make an enormous difference in preventing stroke when you are in your 60s, 70s, or 80s.” 

Here are seven strategies you can use strike back at stroke. 

Water 
Loma Linda University researchers found that men who drank five or more 8-ounce glasses of water daily cut their stroke risk by 53 per cent compared with guys who drank fewer than three glasses. Water helps to thin the blood, which in turn makes it less likely to form clots, explained Dr. Jackie, the lead study author. But do not drink your extra water at once. “You need to drink water throughout the day to keep your blood thin, starting with a glass or two in the morning,” adds Dr. Chan. 

Drink less soda 
Unless it is the diet stuff; the Loma Linda University researchers also discovered that the men who drank large quantities of fluids other than water actually had a higher risk of stroke—46 per cent higher. One theory is that sugary drinks like soda draw water out of the bloodstream, thickening the blood. Another explanation may be the boost in triglycerides caused by sipping liquid sugar. Dr. Daniel Fisher, an assistant professor at the New York University School of Medicine observed that elevated levels of triglycerides – any level above 150 – is a risk factor for arterial disease. 

Avoid anxiety 
You may have just lowered your stroke risk. In a study published in the journal Stroke, researchers noted that of 2,100 men, the anxious guys were three times more likely to have a fatal ischemic stroke than the more serene men. Dr. Ernest Friedman, a professor of psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University said: “anxiety causes chronic overproduction of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that regulates the brain’s control of circulation.” Dr. Friedman added that counting to three—or reining in your racing mind in any other way—helps by stabilizing your levels of serotonin, the antidote to excess dopamine.  

Hold your breath 
You can do this when you are around a smoker. University of Auckland researchers found that people exposed to second-hand smoke are 82 per cent more likely to suffer a stroke than those who never inhale. It seems that carbon monoxide promotes clot formation by interfering with nitric oxide, a biochemical that relaxes blood vessels. To get rid of every single bit of carbon monoxide after a night at the bar, you will have to breathe fresh air for about eight hours. But most of the carbon monoxide will be gone from your body in the first hour, according to Laurence Fechter, a professor of toxicology at the University of Oklahoma. So on your way home, make sure you roll down the car windows and start sucking in some clean air. 

Beat Homocysteine 
Research suggests that people with high blood levels of this amino acid are more likely to stroke out than those with low readings. Extra folate will help reduce the risk, but only for some people. “50 to 60 per cent will not respond with lower homocysteine,” said Dr. Seth J. Baum, medical director of the Mind/Body Medical Institute, a Harvard affiliate. Dr. Baum recommends 1,000 micrograms (mcg) of folate, plus 25 milligrams (mg) of vitamin B6, 1,000 mcg of B12, and 1,800 mg of the amino acid N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC). “With folate, B6, B12, and NAC supplements, almost everyone will have normal homocysteine levels,” said Dr. Baum. 

Pick up an iron supplement 
Aerobic exercise is anti-stroke medicine. If you cannot run or cycle to save your life; then, lift. Dr. Jerry Judd Pryde, a physiatrist at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles said: “Regular resistance training decreases blood pressure, elevates HDL cholesterol, lowers LDL cholesterol, and decreases the stickiness of the blood.” 

If you do not already weight-train, try the American Heart Association programme: 
Lift weights two or three times a week, targeting the major muscle groups. For each of the following, choose a weight you can lift eight to 12 times at most, and do one set to fatigue: bench press, shoulder press, lying triceps extension, biceps curl, seated row, lat pull down, crunch, squat, Romanian dead lift and calf raise.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on September 21,  2013.

Health providers’ demands legitimate – PSN

By: Chioma Umeha

FG should be committed to their new roles
The Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) has urged the committee set up by the federal government to redress the grievances of health workers on controversial professional issues to be committed and impartial in tackling the various issues.

A statement yesterday signed by Olumide Akintayo, national president, PSN, noted that the demands of the health workers are their human rights and should be respected.

Akintayo stressed the need for government to recognise the different hierarchical order, professionalism, application of nomenclatures such as consultants and directors in hospitals, among other issues.
He said: “The Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria wishes to urge the Committee of the Federal Government set up to redress the grievances of health workers on contentious professional matters to be steadfast, bold and upright in tackling the various matters arising without fear or favour.”


“Pharmacists under the umbrella of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria wish to put the record straight by declaring that agitations for recognition of professional roles, optimising career aspirations, appropriate designation of specialist roles and implementation of non-discriminatory salary wages remain the constitutional rights of citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which we shall continue to both champion and uphold,” the PSN boss added.

He regretted that the healthcare sector is structure in a manner that undermines some health professionals.
He said: “It is an irony of fate that the status quo in healthcare in our nation is deliberately structured to impair the legitimate aspiration of some health workers to optimize their potentials in the health sector for many years now.”

He further called for fair treatment to all professionals in the health sector. “The Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria is not unmindful of threats of persons who issue ultimatums on adherence to obnoxious “hierarchical orders” in the health sector. We insist and declare our readiness to attain fair justice to all concerned in the health industry in Nigeria,” Akintayo said.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on September 14,  2013.

34 years on, medical college bemoans poor funding

By: Chioma Umeha 

After 34 years of existence, the National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria, Ijanikin, Lagos has cried out for financial help to upgrade current facilities at the college. 

In its 31st pre-convocation ceremony briefing yesterday in Lagos, the College President, Prof. Victor Wakwe said the institution has been financially struggling for survival since inception in 1979, pointing out that the unhealthy development has constrained the college from optimal performance. He explained that the reason the college had been neglected and its inability to access funds from Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) was tied with its establishment under the Ministry of Health, while TETFUND was planted to handle education affairs. The president however argued that the postgraduate college was a tertiary institution that should benefit from such purse to enable it meet with international standard.  

“This is a tertiary education, therefore, TETFUND needs to release money to the institution so as to operate successfully. We are aware that this Trust Fund begs universities to access the fund, why should our case be exempted,” he queried. As the college continues to suffer dearth of academic infrastructures, such as inadequate examination hall, absence of performance and cognitive skills examination centre and inadequate training facilities of personnel that will train resident doctors, Wakwe decried that there has been no response from TETFUND despite the Minister of Health recent intervention. “This college is the only college owned by the country that caters for more than 90 percent of postgraduate medical training of doctors and dentists. Less than 10 percent of the postgraduate training of doctors and dentists in this country and most Commonwealth countries are done by universities. 

But colleges like ours in these Commonwealth countries carry out professional postgraduate medical training,” he said. The president also complained of insufficient foreign training for some of the resident doctors, lamenting that less than 60 were sent abroad last year against the 200 suggested by the college, grieving more that none has been sent this year. He was not also comfortable with the fact that from 2007 till date, the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) has not functioned due to the removal of the council’s chairman. MDCN, serving as a law court which punishes erring medical practitioners, Wakwe noted that many cases of malpractice would have piled up in the sector, thereby appealing to the President Goodluck Jonathan to appoint a new chairman to discontinue non-regulated medical services in Nigeria.


This story was published in Newswatch Times on September 14,  2013.

Avocados: Natural cure for Alzheimer’s, cancer, others

By: Chioma Umeha

Many dismiss avocado as too fattening forgetting that is also packed with natural health goodness. Avocado has been called the world’s most perfect food. It has achieved this distinction because many nutritionists claim it not only contains everything a person needs to survive — but it has also been found to contribute to the prevention and control of Alzheimer’s, cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other health conditions. 

The avocado (Persea gratissima or P. americana) originated in Puebla, Mexico and its earliest use dates back to 10,000 years B.C. Since AD 900, the avocado tree has been cultivated and grown in Central and South America. In the 19th century, the avocado made its entry into California, and has since become a very successful commercial crop. 95 per cent of U.S. avocados are gown in Southern California. 


Here are other health benefits of avocado: 

  • Helps control blood pressure 
  • It contains potassium which is known to help control blood pressure. 
  • Helps to regulate blood sugar levels Avocados contain good soluble fibre which helps keep a steady blood sugar and also fats which can actually reverse insulin resistance that helps to regulate blood sugar levels. 
  • Helps in weight gain Due to the high healthy calorie content in avocados (For every 100 grams, an avocado contains about 200 calories) it makes for the best ingredient for those trying to put on weight. 
  • Helps to lower bad cholesterol levels Avocados contain a compound called beta-sitosterol which helps to lower blood cholesterol levels LDL which is bad cholesterol and increase HDL which is good cholesterol. 
  • Contains anti-inflammatory properties Avocados contain Phytonutrients such as polyphenols and flavonoids which have anti-inflammatory properties. These reduce the risk of inflammatory and degenerative disorders. 
  • Helps to prevent birth defects Avocados contain folic acid which plays a huge role in the prevention of birth defects, such as neural tube defect and spina bifida. 
  • Helps to fight free radicals Due to the glutathione content in avocados, a diet with an inclusion of avocados can free your body of free radicals. Contains anti-aging properties Avocados are rich in antioxidants which help slow aging symptoms. 
  • It also contains minerals which may boost the immune system, encourage a healthy nervous system. 
  • Reduces strokes risk If you eat a diet rich in folate, you may be able to evade getting a stroke. 
  • Promotes eye health 
  • Avocados are a good source of carotenoid lutein known to help protect against age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. 
  • Helps to maintain a healthy heart Avocados contain vitamin E, glutathione, and monounsaturated fat, which help in the maintenance of a healthy heart. They also contain vitamin B6 and folic acid, which help regulate homocysteine levels which are known to increase the risk of heart disease. 
  • Offers protection against cancer Studies have shown that the avocado with its oleic acid is effective in preventing breast cancer. And can also inhibit the growth of prostate cancer. 
  • May cure halitosis They are a natural mouth wash as they cleanse the intestine which is actually the real cause of bad breath and coated tongue.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on September 14,  2013.

How Nigeria will save billions from anti-malaria discovery

By: Chioma Umeha

Last Tuesday’s news about the discovery of a substance which will eliminate malaria, one of the world’s most deadly diseases, is no doubt cheery to many across the world, especially Nigerians. This is not surprising as Nigeria is one of the world’s endemic malaria countries. 

This report is coming on the heels of a recent report published in Science – a scientific journal, which announced the success of a phase 1 trial of the early-stage clinical evaluation of an investigational malaria vaccine known as the PfSPZ Vaccine, conducted by researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIAID, part of the National Institutes of Health. In reaction, global researchers had observed that preliminary studies have confirmed that the vaccine is safe to generate an immune system response, and to offer protection against malaria infection in healthy adults. Experts in Nigeria also described this as a welcome development. However, it is believed that the latest discovery which was announced Tuesday could be used to help stamp out deadly diseases such as malaria, which kills approximately one million people yearly. 

Also, the Daily Newswatch investigations has shown that if this latest discovery is fast-tracked, Nigeria will save N160 billion between now and next year. The World Health Organisation (WHO) just before the dawn of this year announced that 80 per cent of malaria deaths occur in 14 endemic countries, with Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo and India among the worst hit. In its last year’s annual assessment report on malaria, which was released at the United Nation (UN) Headquarters in New York, WHO further said that to stave off backsliding and resurgences in 2013 and 2014, 2.4 billion U.S. dollars was urgently required, of which one billion dollars was needed in Nigeria alone. The report noted that the initial funding scale-up saved 1.1 million lives, stressing that 58 per cent of them were in countries where the disease was widespread. It explained that the international funding for malaria appeared to have reached a plateau “well below the level required to reach the targets set by world governments and institutions in 2,000 with the adoption of the MDGs, which have a target deadline of 2015’’. 

The WHO report stated that an estimated 5.1 billion U.S. dollars was needed yearly between 2011 and 2020 to achieve universal access to malaria interventions in the 99 countries with ongoing malaria transmission. It added that the slowdown in funding threatened roll-back impressive gains made against the preventable mosquito-borne disease over the last decade. However, the agency report yesterday said that U.S. scientists are working on an ‘invisibility cloak’ for mosquito-plagued people, pets and livestock. According to the report, the ‘invisibility cloak’ will replace traditional repellents The researchers noted that some compounds found in human sweat attract mosquitoes while chemical compounds, including 1-methylpiperzine, block mosquitoes’ sense of smell. They explained that the substances which they discovered occur naturally on human skin and block mosquitoes’ ability to smell and target their victims. Scientists believe the research could be another step in the fight to stamp out deadly diseases such as malaria. Speaking at the National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society, research chemist Ulrich Bernier said that far from being a nuisance, mosquitoes are more deadly to humans than any other animal. In the U.S. alone, mosquitoes spread rare types of encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain as well as transmitting heart worms to pet dogs and cats. 

Dr Bernier said: “Repellents have been the mainstay for preventing mosquito bites.” In Nigeria, there are several popular repellent and are hardly effective. Though they have been in use for a long time, many do not like the feel or the smell of the repellant. In US, the most widely used repellant, DEET, is quite effective and has been in use for a long time but some people don’t like the feel or the smell of the repellant, Bernier said. “We are exploring a different approach, with substances that impair the mosquito’s sense of smell. If a mosquito can’t sense that dinner is ready, there will be no buzzing, no landing and no bite,” he explained. Female mosquitoes, which suck blood to obtain a protein needed to produce fertile eggs, can smell people from over 100 feet away. A person’s scent, Dr Bernier explained, comes from hundreds of compounds on the skin, many emitted through sweat and others produced by bacteria. To identify which of these attract mosquitoes, Bernier and colleagues at the Mosquito and Fly Unit at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service Centre for Medical, Agricultural, and Veterinary Entomology in Florida, used a special mosquito cage divided by a screen. They sprayed various substances into one side of the cage and documented the effects in attracting mosquitoes. 

Some compounds, like lactic acid – a common component of human sweat – were definite mosquito lures, drawing 90 per cent of the mosquitoes to the screen. With other compounds, however, many of the mosquitoes did not even take flight or seemed confused. Dr Bernier said: ‘If you put your hand in a cage of mosquitoes where we have released some of these inhibitors, almost all just sit on the back wall and don’t even recognise that the hand is in there. We call that anosmia or hyposmia; the inability to sense smells or a reduced ability to sense smells.’ He said that a group of chemical compounds, including 1-methylpiperzine, block mosquitoes’ sense of smell. This may help explain why mosquitoes fly toward some people but not others. 

The substances have a molecular architecture found in ingredients in dozens of medicines and other products and they appear suitable for use in cosmetics, lotions, clothing and other products that currently incorporate mosquito repellants, he said. The Mosquito and Fly Unit has been doing research on mosquito repellents since the 1940s. In the 1990s, it accumulated information on substances secreted through the human skin or formed by bacteria on the skin that make some people more attractive to mosquitoes than others.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on September 12,  2013.

There’s need to dismantle myth surrounding rape – Anaba

Mrs. Itoro Eze Anaba the Executive Director/Managing partner, Partnership for Justice in an interview recently decried the plight of rape survivors. Anaba spoke to CHIOMA UMEHA (HEALTH EDITOR) on the goals of the Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) which will provide respite for survivors. Excerpts: 


Recently, your organisation announced that it was going to establish a Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH). Give details of your plans. 
We have commenced training for medical practitioners on forensic medical examinations and provision of other support services for victims of rape and sexual assaults. Partnership for Justice is setting up a sexual assault referral centre that will provide timely professional and victim friendly services for survivors of sexual assault. And one of the major aspect of the project is to train doctors and nurses to provide them with adequate and specialized skills so that when victims of rape and sexual assault come in to the hospitals they have specialized skills to treat them in a way that it will leave them with their dignity intact so that they are not further traumatized. We also have nurses that will work in therefore centres so that can provide like victim friendly services. We want a situation where victims walk into the centre and are able to receive psycho-social services like counselling services as well as medical services. The centre is going to be set up at LASUTH and the hospital has kindly given us a space.  Throughout July, we were training the doctors and subsequently trained counsellors. It is only after that the centre will be open to the public. An interesting aspect of the centre is that services provided at the centre will be free. Both counseling, basic medical treatment will be provided free for the victims and in addition we are going to have large publicity programme on this project because it does not make sense to set up a centre and at the end of the day nobody knows about it. We are going to run radio jingles, postals, flyers put in place. We will be visiting schools and already targeting about 20 schools in Ikeja to train officials of the schools to act as community monitors so that within the school environment they are able to detect the symptoms of rape. If any of the girls has suddenly changed if it was because she was sexually abused or assaulted. Those officials will be able to identify those students and refer them to the centre. Ultimately, we would also want to work with the family support unit which is another programme with e aim providing the police with necessary skills to investigate and prosecute cases of rape and sexual assault. Already, we have trained medical practitioners to be equipped with the skills. 

Number of doctors trained
We trained about 30 doctors drawn from various hospitals such as Island hospital, Ikorodu hospital, but majority are from LASUTH because the centre is located at LASUTH. Anybody can walk in to receive services.  Anybody can walk in to receive services. Other department can refer; for instance, the Police and other civil society organization. An individual can be referred to this centre and they will walk in and receive treatment at any time. Right now it is being funded by Justice for all programme of the Department for International Development; we would want the state government to step in as well.   Already LASUTH has given us a small building but for the sake of privacy and confidentiality there is need to have a separate building or section for this kind of services.  We are hoping that with time the government we give us a large space in the new building they are putting on. For now it is free and we hope it will be continue to be free because the high cost of medical care is also an obstacle to receiving treatment. 

Benefits to survivors 
Generally survivors find it difficult because they do not really know where to go to report cases of assault and it is even more difficult when the perpetrator is a family member. At times they go to their religious leaders and they do not believe them and they go around with that trauma.    When they go to hospital, the delay to receiving treatment is there and at times they do not have money to buy drugs and take care of other medical services but this centre is going to provide all those services. Now, you have a place where you can walk in and make a report and receive treatment free. The staff at the centre will believe you when you come in.   The centre is going to provide pregnancy tests, initial medical services will include possible HIV tests but everything has to be done with the consent of the victim. All information to be kept confidential private and more importantly we are going install a system that will provide aggregated data so that at the end of day we will be able to say how many that have been affected by rape in Lagos state, how many came from Ikorodu, Yaba, etc; and among these areas, what age group of people are more prone to rape or who are the perpetrators. Why social class, religious. All these compilation will be provided at the same time.  

It appears that rape is on the increase
It is really difficult to say that it is on the increase because it could be that there is more awareness now and people are making more report not necessarily because it is on the increase.  But what we can say now is that there is increased awareness and increased publicity on sexual report.   But for us to say that there is increase, we must have a data which we do not have. We cannot back up a data, but there is publicity and awareness that rape is actually becoming an epidemic that is why the centre is going to provide such data. Over the years, the society is beginning to agree that these things are happening.  There is need to start dismantling this whole myth as secrecy surrounding rape so that those affected will feel free to receive the support services. 

We need to remember that we cannot do without the community because perpetrators live within the community. So we need to take steps to protect our communities from rape incidents and make sure that our girls and women are actually free from rape. Do they report? There mixture of reasons some people also report but some people feel that there is no need for them to report and some do not want to report immediately. But they can access the support at the centre which will make them have the confidence to report in future. 

This story was published in Newswatch Times on September 12,  2013.

Mammograms before 50 reduce deaths from breast cancer – Researchers

By: Chioma Umeha

A new study which has caused fresh debate, on Monday proposed that women should begin routine breast cancer screening before age 50 to reduce deaths from breast cancer. This new recommendation flies in the face of concerns that screening women for breast cancer increases their risk of ‘overdiagnosis.’ The study which was conducted by Harvard University researchers stated; “mammograms before age 50 could dramatically cut deaths from breast cancer.” According to an agency report, a team of researchers led by Dr. Blake Cady of Massachusetts General Hospital identified women diagnosed with breast cancer between 1990 and 1999 at two Boston hospitals and tracked their cases until 2007. They found that out of 609 confirmed breast cancer deaths, 395 of these women — 71 per cent — never had a mammogram prior to diagnosis. 

Moreover, half of the breast cancer deaths in the study were in women younger than 50. Only 13 per cent of breast cancer deaths occurred in women 70 or older. Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women. For years, a debate has raged about when a woman should begin getting mammograms. In 2009, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) released a controversial recommendation that women should get mammograms starting at age 50, and that these tests should occur every other year until age 74. Before this recommendation, doctors had traditionally told their patients to get mammograms every one to two years starting at age 40. The USPSTF made its recommendations with the aim of striking the best balance between catching the most cases of breast cancer early while still limiting potential downsides of testing, like false positives and screening costs. To make their decision, they looked at eight large, high-quality studies to determine the age range in which it would be most beneficial for women to get mammograms. 


At the time, the USPSTF argued that there were too many unnecessary biopsies and other unneeded treatments being performed in young women. Meanwhile, the American Cancer Society has continued to maintain that early screening and detection saves lives. They say women should get mammograms starting at age 40, once every year, while they are in good health. Cady said his team’s findings support the idea that screenings should start sooner rather than later. “I have watched the mortality rate from breast cancer fall from 50 per cent in the 1960s to 9.2 per cent today with the advent of early detection with mammography,” said Cady, who added that he recommends his patients get yearly mammograms beginning at age 40. “To a certain extent [the study results are] intuitive because younger women don’t get screened,” he said. “Without screening, they’re just like the women in the 1960s who died without ever knowing they had breast cancer.” 

Robert Smith, senior director of cancer screening for the American Cancer Society, said the findings bolster the Society’s recommendations on mammograms. “While the analysis reveals that regular screening will not prevent all breast cancer deaths, it also reveals that even with improvements in treatment there still is a significant advantage of detecting breast cancer with mammography before symptoms develop,” Smith said in an e-mail to ABC News. Experts So what does this mean for you, your family members, or your loved ones? As with most things in medicine, every woman is unique. If you have any risk factors, such as a family history or a genetic predisposition toward breast cancer, you need early and regular screening with the guidance of your doctor. For women without risk factors, consider self breast examinations at home and see your physician for a clinical breast exam every two to three years starting in your 20s. If your breasts look or feel different, seek medical care. Every medical test including mammograms has risks and benefits, which each woman should weigh for herself in conjunction with her physician.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on September 12,  2013.

Friday, 26 December 2014

Our new human virology laboratory will expand services, reduce cancer – Ujah

Professor Innocent Ujah is the Director-General (DG) and Chief Executive Officer of Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) Yaba, Lagos. Ujah recently addressed journalists on the efforts of the institute since the past three years when he assumed duty. CHIOMA UMEHA (HEALTH EDITOR) was there and has the details. Excerpt:

Professor Innocent Ujah
Discuss the link between the recent expansion in the services of human virology laboratory (HVL) and improvement health care delivery by the institute?
In order to expand and improve the quality services of the Human Virology Laboratory (The Only ISO Certified Laboratory in the country), we had to carry out extension of the Laboratory.   I am delighted to report that the building extension is completed, fully furnished and have been commissioned by the former Minister of State for health, Dr Mohammed Ali Pate. It is also necessary to state that in the HVL, is a newly procured COBAS 4800 MACHINE, a machine used for screening for Human Papilloma virus (1IPV), the virus that is known to cause cancer of the cervix. It will be used to conduct a national survey on the prevalence of Human Papilloma virus. In addition, the machine will be used to study the genotypes (sub-types) of the virus and will generate evidence that will inform policy on cancer of the cervix prevention in the country as well as providing clinical service to women. Our Institute is the first and only Institution that has this type of machine in the West African Sub-region.

How has the recent upgrading of Biological Safety Level-3 laboratory for MDR-TB research helped to increase your capacity in service delivery?
Recently, our TB Laboratory was upgraded to a Bio-Safety Level-3 Laboratory and has been fully furnished and equipped with the state-of-the art equipment. The Bio-Safety Level-3 Laboratory will enhance our research into Multi-drug Resistant TB (MDR-TB). The project was executed courtesy of Family Health International (FHISGO) with support from USAID. Also, the building of Bio-safety Level-3 Laboratory and extension of the HVL have created jobs for over 1000 skilled and unskilled workforce and this effectively contributes to the federal government’s effort at providing jobs and empowerment for Nigerians, which also helps to keep miscreants out of the street.

Assess efforts of the institute in the dissemination of research findings?
As a research institute, one of our mandates is to disseminate research findings. In response to this mandate, NIMR has institutionalized Annual Scientific Conference and an International conference which is done every three years. The conferences have huge participation and  are used to disseminate our research findings and share experiences among researchers from across the globe that will be benefit not only the scientists but also policy makers and organised private sector. We also produce policy briefs for policy makers which are made available to the Federal Ministry of Health from time to time. In addition, we have regularly engaged the media during which we present some of our research findings for the benefit of the public. We also have upgraded and improved the quality of the Institute’s Journal, The Journal of Clinical and Biomedical Research.

Assess the scope of research by the institute?
Our Research Institute is the only medical research in the Nigeria, therefore, the entire country is our constituency. But unfortunately, the Institute has only two outstations (Kainji in Niger State and Maiduguri in Borno State). Our desire to expand our operational base has been stiffened by inadequate funding. We need to refocus our research activities in all the geopolitical zones, as each zone has distinct social, cultural and religious background that may make it difficult to extrapolate research findings from one geopolitical zone on another. There is therefore the compelling need to establish research offices in the zones where currently none exists.

A recent report stated that Africa has access to only five per cent of research grants. What are the innovations for improved access to research grants in the country?
We are aware that government alone cannot fund research and therefore, we were determined to source for funds from other sources.  We engaged ourselves in advocacy to many organisations and agencies. One of such agencies is CDC Nigeria. The Country Director Dr Okey Nwanyanwu must be commended as he drew our attention to the need to register with National Institute of Health (NHI) and obtain DUNS (Data Universal Numbering System) to access funds directly from NHI in response to calls for proposals.

As I speak, the Institute has effectively registered and now has a DUNS number. The immediate consequence from the registration is success recorded in three of our proposals which have been approved for funding. The first research study for funding will commence this September. As a Research Institution, I consider this as a very  major achievements, as it is the first time ever the Institute is accessing fund directly without going through a third party.

Assess efforts of the institute in creating enabling work environment for research?
For the first time in the history of the Institute, a five-year-strategic plan was developed to give direction to the operation of the Institute. Since the past three years, we have intensified efforts in building capacity of our staff, researchers and scientists from other institutions in the country and abroad. Such capacity development and knowledge management courses include; grants writing workshops and mentorship which is to ensure that our proposals are competitive. Others are; Malaria microscopy training for physicians, scientists, laboratory scientists and laboratory technicians. In addition, we carry out yearly training courses on molecular biology and bioinformatics with impressive attendance and participation. Over 200 scientists and IT students have benefited from our capacity building training courses during this period under review.

Discuss the institute’s collaboration and partnerships with international organizations?
The Institute has continued to expand its collaboration and partnership. The long standing relationship between Partec (Germany) and NIMR has resulted in the signing of an MOU whereby Partec will establish a centre for excellence for training laboratory technologists and technicians. NIMR also have a long standing relationship with both Roche Diagnostics and Roche Pharma from which both the institute and the general public have benefitted greatly.

For Instance, our DNA studies of Hepatitis 13 and C viruses has been made possible through our collaboration with Roche Diagnostics. Also, the Cobas 4800 Machine was given to NIMR by Roche Diagnostics, through an arrangement which makes it easier to pay, otherwise, it would have been impossible to procure the equipment at this time of poor funding of the institute. We also enjoy excellent collaboration with the Centre for Global Health, Northwestern University and also International Association of National Public Health Institutes (IANPHI).

State your achievements, challenges and plans ahead of 2015 which the terminal year of the MDGS.
On assumption of duty in the Institute on the May 22 2010, I outlined the structure of my administration with well defined objectives anchored on good governance, respect for due process, accountability and rule of law, which are the basic ingredients for re-positioning taking the foremost Health Research Institute in Nigeria to be a centre of excellence for health research. I believe that we are working in line with this principle of my administration. The celebration of the anniversary was used as a platform to discuss evidence-based study that seeks to proffer solutions to common health problems that afflict our people. This we did by selecting a topic on contemporary health issue and practically discussed possible solutions. The key topic was: Humanitarian Disaster risk Management: The case study of flooding in Nigeria which tackled social, economic and health consequences of flooding, as witnessed between August and November, last year. 

There is need to x-ray the problem of flooding and find permanent solutions to avert it. Experts in from different discussed this component of humanitarian crisis that has assumed International concern. We also used the occasion to review our activities during the past year and re-strategize for improved performance in the coming year, apart from increasing awareness among policy makers and other Nigerians on the mandate of NIMR and the available facilities for research, clinical services, capacity development and partnership for promoting quality of health research, and other services through shared knowledge and experiences.
We need to intensify our efforts in sustaining health capacity development to generate new knowledge that will impact the health of Nigerians. We need to develop a commercial unit of the institute using NIMR Consult currently being registered with Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). We have to Intensity our advocacy to policy makers to appreciate the value of research so that they can substantially invest in health research for national development.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on August 29,  2013.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Nigeria records reduction in polio cases – Official

By: CHIOMA UMEHA 

The Chief Medical Officer, National Polio Emergency Operations Centre, Andrew Etsano, yesterday,  said Nigeria has witnessed a 50 per cent reduction in wild polio cases as at the third quarter of 2013. Announcing this, Mr. Etsano in an agency report observed that “as at August 16, 2013, Nigeria confirmed 43 wild polio virus in nine states compared to 86 cases in 11 states for the same period in 2012. 

“So we can say we have 50 per cent reduction in polio cases and over 80 per cent particularly in states where there are security challenges.” He listed the states as Kano, Yobe, Borno, Gombe, Taraba, Bauchi, Nasarawa, Benue and FCT. He said that strategies had been put in place to ensure that the country did not witness polio case again; assuring that every child would be reached with vaccine. Mr. Etsano said the agency had deployed additional personnel for its operation to improve team performance and enhance supervision and “concurrent monitoring’’. He also said other measures included the enforcement of accountability at all levels and better field-based micro planning. 

According to him, the use of Geographic Information System (GIS) in mapping of settlements and tracking of vaccinators as well as polio survival groups to enhance community mobilisation had been introduced. “We have entrenched into the immunisation system what is known as accountability framework, which means people will be held accountable for their failure, inability, action or inaction,” he said. Also, Ado Muhammad, the Executive Director of the agency noted that the country was making appreciable progress in reducing polio through aggressive public enlightenment. According to him, parents now voluntarily bring out their children forvaccination following such awareness. 

Mr. Muhammad said the agency had made it a priority to ensure that vaccines with injectable devices were made available. He said the agency had also introduced vaccines such as Pentavalent and Med-A to improve immunisation. Pentavalent vaccine is a combination of five vaccines-in-one that prevents diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B and haemophilus influenza type B through a single dose. “We are making progress because fewer children will be dying from preventable diseases, more children will be reached for immunisation and we are reducing the number of unimmunised children by 51 per cent,” he said. Mr. Muhammad said the Federal Government prioritised immunisation through adequate funding for the exercise, adding however, that more funds were still needed to buy more vaccines.


This story was published in Newswatch Times on August 29,  2013.

Rotary Club Omole donates incubator, phototherapy machines, to hospital

By: CHIOMA UMEHA 

As part of its humanitarian services to reduce infant mortality rate in Nigeria, the Rotary Club of Omole Golden, District 9110, has donated an incubator machine and two phototherapy machines to the Ifako-Ijaiye General Hospital in Lagos. 

The donation was made during the visit of Mr. Oluwagbemiga Olowu, the District Governor, District 9110, to the Rotary Club of Omole Golden. Speaking during the donation ceremony, which took place at the hospital’s premises, Mr.  Oluwagbemiga Olowu said maternal care and safe child birth are the key focus of the club for this Rotary year, adding that Rotary as a humanitarian organization places a great premium on human life, hence the efforts in saving lives. 

He said: “Globally, the Rotary Club focuses on impacting the society. In this District, we are running with this vision. As a humanitarian organization, we will leave no stone unturned to ensure that lives are saved. That is the reason we are here this afternoon to further that belief.” In his remarks, Mr. Kayode Owolabi, President, Rotary Club of Omole Golden, assured the hospital’s management of the continued support of the Club while he further promised that the hospital would receive a minimum of two more incubators and phototherapy machines before the end of the year. 

Responding to the gesture, Mrs Ibironke Sodeinde, the Medical Director, Ifako Ijaiye General Hospital, said Rotary Club has contributed immensely to the development of the hospital since its establishment seven years ago. She thanked the club immensely for its contribution and promised to make a judicious use of the donated equipment. In a related development, the Rotary Club has also donated the sum of $5,000 (Five Thousand Dollars) to Mr.  David Odafe to enable him undergo treatment in India.  

Mr. Kayode Owolabi said the donation to Odafe, who is suffering from a spinal cord injury, is the second of such to be made to him. The Rotary Club of Omole-Golden has also contributed to many other worthy causes, including providing critical facilities for schools, scholarship awards to students, among others.


This story was published in Newswatch Times on August 29,  2013.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Disasters: Nurses canvass for Federal Emergency plan

By: CHIOMA UMEHA 

To curtail the growing incidences of disasters, health professionals under the umbrella of the West African College of Nursing, WACN, have advocated for a Federal Emergency Plan that will be adopted at State and Local Government levels. According to the nurses, the Federal Emergency Plan will address the recurring gap between events and efforts to save lives. 


Making the call during a 2-week certificate course on Disaster Nursing entitled: “Emergency Preparedness for Nurses” in Lagos, Director, Nursing Services, Lagos State, Ministry of Health, Lagos, Mrs. Jokotade Adebusola Agunbiade, said a Federal emergency plan would specify steps to be taken in certain identified emergencies. “There is need to organise morbid meeting of aftermath of events, embrace universal safety precautions that guarantee proper physical, protection of members of the rescue team as well their equipment in such a way as to prevent access by unauthorised individuals as well as the need for internet resources and media to provide facts sheet on steps that could assist victims,” 

Agunbiade observed She insisted that the health sector has a principal role to play in emergency preparedness without notification. “Although a lot has been done regarding emergency preparedness and disaster management, yet, when there are emergencies and disasters, there will always be a gap between the events and the actual realisation of efforts towards saving lives. Coordinator WACN, Ogun State, Mrs. Ashabi Olowu said the essence of the training was to ensure all Nigerian nurses are fully prepared to receive emergencies as it is a sudden occurrence. 

The Course Coordinator, and Principal, School of Post Basic Studies,   National Orthopedic Hospital lgbobi, Lagos, explained that two week course was organized  to equip Nurses with adequate knowledge, skill and attitude necessary in the management of victims of disasters. 

This story was published in Newswatch Times on August 29,  2013.
Basic guidelines for good digestion
Continued from last week

By: Chioma Umeha

Eat in a certain order
Eat raw fruits or vegetables with live enzymes first and then proteins before the starches. The enzymes in the fruits and or vegetables aid the digestive enzymes in the stomach in digesting the incoming proteins. Remember carbohydrates are not digested in the stomach except momentarily in the upper part of the stomach. If you swallow your starch first and chew your meat till it is liquid as we grew up to do in Nigeria, your protein which is now in liquid form will move to the bottom of the stomach and leave the stomach partly undigested as it flows out with the next batch of chyme.
Fruit and vegetables add bulk and force you to chew which prompts peristaltic movement and elimination time is shortened.

Eat several small portion meals
Know your portion sizes. Find out what a potion of certain foods look like. Eating large meals puts a burden on your digestive system. If you chew long you will eat less.

Restore the good gut bacteria with probiotics
Probiotics like yogurt helps restore gut bacteria especially if one has been taking antibiotics which kills off both the good and disease causing bacteria.

Boost digestion and aid digestive enzymes
Raw enzymes from fruits like pawpaw can assist your natural stomach enzymes digest protein. Especially if one is getting older or is having digestive problems.

Eat a variety of foods
Do not eat the same foods over and over e.g. (breakfast- branflakes, lunch-sandwich, dinner- macaroni) all wheat products. Doing that means you are getting the same kind of nutrients and no more.  This can lead to a deficiency in other nutrients in the body.

Get rid of margarine from your home
There is no naturally occurring margarine in nature. There is cocoa butter, shea butter and butter from milk. So hydrogenated oils have no place in your foods as our body cannot recognize it and so cannot digest it.

Take your own foods with you
You may not find your kind of healthy foods prepared commercially so as often as you can take your whole-organic foods with you to work or on your trips.

Do not overeat
The digestive system uses a lot of energy so eating too much at a time can put extra stress on your digestive system. You may have noticed that you feel sleepy aftereating a large meal.

Refrain from using antacids
Antacid just as the name implies neutralizes the hydrochloric acid in the stomach and prevents a favourable environment for the stomach enzymes to function optimally in the digestion of proteins meant for repair and body building. Low acid engender the fermentation of carbohydrate foods and also allows bacteria access into the system.

Exercise
Any conscious increase in activity will certainly help bowel movement. It does not have to be a strenuous exercise program. Stretching will generally do.

Respond promptly to your body’s signal to move your bowel
The colon continuously reabsorbs water from the digested food and compresses waste matter into faeces ready for excretion.  The longer the faecal matter stays in the colon as a result of voluntary refusal to respond to body’s signals to move the bowel the more water and toxins are reabsorbed and the harder the stool will become. The more condense the faeces, the more difficult it will be to eventually pass stools.


This story was published in Newswatch Times on November 9,  2013.
Wrapping babies can damage their hips – Experts

By: Chioma Umeha

Experts on Tuesday, warned against swaddling babies, noting that this can break the hips. One of them, Prof Nicholas Clarke, an orthopaedic surgeon, said; “parents are risking their babies’ health because of a surge in the popularity of swaddling.” 

The technique involves binding the arms and legs with blankets and is used to help calm a baby and prevent crying. But Prof Clarke, of Southampton University Hospital, said swaddling was damaging developing hips. Also, the Royal College of Midwives and other experts advised parents to avoid tightly swaddling a child. Swaddling has been widely used in many cultures globally. It is thought the blanket wrapping can simulate the feelings of being in the womb and calm the child. But the technique holds the legs out straight and restricts movement, which can alter the development of the hip joint. 

Writing in the journal; Archives of Disease in Childhood, Prof Clarke argued: “There has been a recent resurgence of swaddling because of its perceived palliative effect on excessive crying, colic and promoting sleep. “In order to allow for healthy hip development, legs should be able to bend up and out at the hips. This position allows for natural development of the hip joints. “The babies’ legs should not be tightly wrapped in extension and pressed together.” Jane Munro, of the Royal College of Midwives, said it was a “seemingly innocuous” thing to do, but it posed ‘significant problems’ for the baby. She said there were also the risk of the baby overheating and a raised risk of cot death. 

She added: “We advise parents to avoid swaddling, but it is also crucial that we take into account each mother’s cultural background, and to provide individualised advice to ensure she knows how to keep her baby safe, able to move and not get overheated.” Andreas Roposch, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Great Ormond Street Hospital, said: “Similar effects may be seen in all devices or manoeuvres that place the legs in a purely straight position for prolonged periods in this critical age of early infancy. 

Roposch  added: “Swaddling should not be employed in my view, as there is no health benefit but a risk for adverse consequences of the growing and often immature hips.” Further, Rosemary Dodds, of parenting charity the NCT, advised against tight swaddling. According to Dodds :”It is helpful to raise awareness of hip dysplasia in relation to swaddling. Some parents and babies seem to like swaddling, but it is important that babies do not overheat and their legs are not restricted. “Videos are available on the NCT website showing parents who want to swaddle their baby how to do so safely,” he added.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on November 9,  2013.
Pharmacists want implementation of national drug prescription policy

By: Chioma Umeha

Nigerians who are in the habit of buying drugs and other forms of medications at pharmaceutical shops without doctor’s prescription and the authentication of a qualified pharmacist may no longer be allowed to do so. 

This is because life imprisonment now awaits any person found engaging in counterfeit and fake drugs in the country, if the proposed legislation before members of the House of Representatives which sails through. The proposed policy, under proposition, would take prompt implementation in the country whenever the Pharmaceutical Council of Nigeria (PCN) is reconstituted, as the plan cannot be implemented without the council. This development formed the thrust of the deliberations of members of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) at their 86th annual conference tagged “Harmony 2013” holding in Ilorin, Kwara from Nov 5-8. The PSN National President, Olumide Akintayo, has therefore called on the Federal Ministry of Health to complete its initiatives of beginning efforts at launching a formal prescription policy for Nigeria. Speaking at the event with the theme; “Evolving Best Practices in Patient Care,” he noted that nothing constitutes a prescription in both the technical and professional context in Nigeria today, adding that the situation had encouraged the infamous menace of prescribing pharmacists and dispensing doctors. 

However, all these will change as the new Bill has stipulated stiff punishments for erring consumers. It prescribes that any person found wanting is liable to a maximum fine not exceeding N10 million or to a life imprisonment or to such fine and imprisonment. And at the least, on conviction, not exceeding N5 million or to a term of not less than seven years or to both, such fine and imprisonment depending on the magnitude of the offence. Besides, it stipulates that where an offence has been committed by a body corporate, every person who at the time of the commission of the offence, as well as the body corporate shall be deemed to be guilty of the offence and shall be prosecuted and punished accordingly. Akintayo also said: “A need therefore arises to consciously begin to work toward separation of professional roles as the global norm is to ensure that both the prescriber and dispenser of medicines do not have pecuniary gains or advantage.” The PSN boss said the ultimate methodology of the policy should facilitate the generation of formalised/personalised prescription pads with the professional registration numbers of the prescriber who could be a registered medical practitioner, registered dentist, registered veterinary surgeon and alternate medicine practitioner through the MDCN or other appropriate regulatory council. 


He added that all such personalised prescriptions would be filled by registered pharmacists who would affix their professional stamps and seals with the PCN registration number. “The need to sanitise prescribing and dispensing endeavours which is one of the dimensions in the chaotic drug distribution network can certainly not be over-emphasised in the public interest,” the PSN President stated. The National President said: “the PSN in recent times has embarked on almost an unprecedented level of advocacy visit and media blitz as reflected in the society’s report and other presentations, which we shall further showcase at conference.” Akintayo said: “Today we have initiated PSN ID cards and membership certificates, commenced professional studies, instituted redress of offensive statures against pharmacy practice, laid the basis for the use of professional stamps and seals in the evolving national prescription policy and have advanced plans for the inauguration of the pharmacy academy. “Delays in the reconstitution of the PCN caused some drawbacks in our plans to fine-tune drug pricing, which we hope the new drug distribution guidelines will help bring to a more stable and harmonious regime. The establishment of our National Postgraduate College of Pharmacy, one of our long term projects, is on the cards even as we continue to prioritize our deliverables.” 

Other issues Akintayo addressed were the Yayale Ahmed Committee for Harmony in the Health sector and welfare of public sector pharmacists, which he commended and the agenda for the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria. His words: “We are aware of the President’s interest in restoring harmony in the health sector and this must have led to setting up of a Presidential Committee inaugurated personally by him to re-evaluate the Gusau Committee report. We note the calibre of persons appointed on the Committee and urge them to embrace the principles of equity, justice and fair play in conducting this noble exercise.” Noting that PSN is aware of the National Industrial Court judgment on skipping of CONHESS 10, Akintayo urged government to withdraw the circular of the Federal Ministry of Health on non-skipping and this should be given administrative teeth immediately. He also called on the Yayale Ahmed Committee, which he said would hopefully establish a new foundation for a health sector presently in tatters, to embrace international best practices in the management of public health workers. 

Akintayo commended President Goodluck Jonathan for reconstituting the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) which in real terms had been non-existent since November 2007. The PSN boss said the practice environment got to a most wretched and sad level in the period before the board was reconstituted. He also commended the Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu for ensuring due process in the reconstitution of the PCN board. He hailed the appointment of Mr. Bruno Nwankwo as the chairman of the board. He said: “In addition to this expected boom in inspectorate activities, the PCN must commence the production of professional stamps and seals for registered pharmacists to meet some goals of the much anticipated National Prescription Policy. To realize these shifts to a next level, all players in organised pharmacy must be prepared for a review in statutory fees, the lean financial times notwithstanding.” Akintayo noted that the challenges of the approved Pharm. D programme was yet another important objective the PCN must realise, adding that the pre-registration exams for intern pharmacists must commence in earnest as a new generation of pharmacists is raised, who can compete globally.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on November 9,  2013.

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