By Chioma Umeha
To reduce growing incidence of thyroid diseases, Nigerians have been advised to eat foods fortified with iodine.
Giving the advice was Dr. Bolanle Olajumoke Okunowo, an Endocrinologist, who explained that iodine is a micronutrient that is essential for the production of thyroid hormones.
She further said that the body does not make iodine, so it is an essential part of diet. Iodine is found in various foods. If you do not have enough iodine in your body, you cannot make enough thyroid hormone. Thus, iodine deficiency can lead to enlargement of the thyroid, hypothyroidism and to mental retardation in infants and children whose mothers were iodine deficient during pregnancy.
Dr. Okunowo, spoke at the maiden edition of a sensitisation programme, organised by Layi Erogbgbo Foundation (LEF) to mark this year’s World Thyroid Day with the theme, ‘Check your neck, know your thyroid’ in Lagos.
According to her, thyroid gland contribute to all the activities in the body and when it is not working well it affects different vital organs in the body, thereby making it to malfunction or under-function.
The primary source of iodine is the diet via consumption of foods that have been fortified with iodine, including salt, dairy products and bread, or that are naturally abundant in the micronutrient, such as seafood.
Dr Okunowo who is a senior registrar at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital LASUTH noted that endemic thyroid problems all over the world is been recorded at 2.2 billion and Nigerian is one of the goitrous zones in the world, that is where endemic goiter occurs probably due to iodine deficiency. “This iodine we are talking about is mainly from the food we eat and that’s why we are advocating for supplementation of food and it can only be done by taken iodized foods.”
Recommended daily iodine intake is 150 µg in adults who are not pregnant or lactating.
About 500 students, teaching and non-teaching staff from both public and private schools in Lagos State weekend, benefitted from the awareness campaign.
Mr. Goriola Erogbogbo, the founder of LEF, said that the event targets students and teachers in public and private schools in the State to enlighten them about the disease and related issues.
He also said that the vision of the foundation is to protect and enhance the health of the less privileged through surgical operations for about 100 patients annually besides meeting their medical needs through community outreaches to over two million Lagosians.
“It is our belief that health management approach will help us achieve our aims of preserving and enhancing the lives of the less privileged families for their well-being and success,” he remarked.
Stating the objectives of the Foundation, Erogbogbo said that LEF, a non-profit organization is dedicated to providing support with highly subsidized access to surgery, pre-surgery tests and treatment to tackle Goitre disease, raising awareness to promote knowledge in respect of preventive measures against the occurrences of the diseases among the citizenry while also advocating positive lifestyle to reduce the manifestation.
He said the organisation intends partnering with the Lagos State Ministry of Education to carry out free awareness campaign for public and privately-owned secondary schools in the State on the importance of optimal functioning of the thyroid gland in childhood, during pregnancy and throughout adult life.
He said the decision to take the campaign to schools is anchored on the fact that the youths are the most vulnerable group due to their unhealthy lifestyle and ignorance of the consequences.
He noted that the World Thyroid Day is dedicated to thyroid patients and all professionals including those who are committed to the study and treatment of thyroid diseases worldwide.
Answering the question on how the foundation funds its activities to achieve its objectives, Erogbogbo stated that funds are raised from the founder’s equity contributions, donations from corporate organisations and public spirited individuals that share the vision of the foundation.
Advising the participants on the significant of the IEC materials distributed at the event, he charged them to utilize them and spread the knowledge they have acquired about the disease to others, especially family members, friends and colleagues to further drive home the campaign amongst the citizenry.
Topics delivered at the program include Basic steps to reduce family risk factors, Preventive measures and control of thyroid disease, Signs and symptoms of thyroid disease as well as food and healthy living.