Saturday, 6 December 2014

Infants who were breastfed longer have higher IQs – Study


Infants  who were breastfed as infants scored higher on intelligence tests than formula-fed kids, and the longer and more exclusively they were breastfed, the greater the difference, said Harvard University researchers in a study published Wednesday in JAMA Pediatrics. 

This study added “to the body of literature of the association between duration of breastfeeding and cognition,” said NBC news diet and health editor Madelyn Fernstrom. But does breastfeeding make your child smarter? Fernstrom said this study showed an association, not cause and effect. The researchers analyzed 1,312 expectant mothers enrolled between 1999 and 2002 in Project Viva, a study in eastern Massachusetts examining pregnancy and child health, and the children they delivered. The researchers found that seven-year-olds whose mothers had done any breastfeeding during the child’s first year – exclusively or in combination with formula – gained a little more than a third of a point in verbal IQ for each month of breastfeeding compared to children who were never breastfed. 

Breastfeeding mother
That means if the mother did any mix of breastfeeding for the entire 12 months, the gain would be 4.2 verbal IQ points. The association between breastfeeding and intelligence was stronger when researchers broke out children whose mothers exclusively breastfed during the first six months. Those seven -years-olds showed an increase of four-fifths of a point in verbal IQ each month over children who were never breastfed. That translates into a 4.8 point gain in verbal IQ if exclusively breastfed during their entire first six months of life. The results were similar although smaller in magnitude for non-verbal IQ. Georgieff praised the study’s design. There is really good evidence that breastfeeding reduces ear infections, diarrhoea and eczema in infants, he said. 

The Harvard study, unlike most past studies, controlled for these and other variables, including the mother’s intelligence, education level, and any postpartum depression; family income and home environment; and the child’s race, ethnicity, sex and birth weight. “As a result, we felt we were able to get a reasonable estimate of what the relationship is between the length of breastfeeding and the IQ of the child at school age,” said Dr. Mandy Belfort, lead author and assistant professor of paediatrics at Harvard Medical School. The study results show that “exclusive breastfeeding is becoming more and more important,” said physicist Sean Deoni, head of Brown University’s Advanced Baby Imaging Lab and lead author of a recent brain imaging study that linked exclusive breastfeeding to enhanced brain development in children. Belfort said researchers do not know for sure why breast milk may increase cognition. 

“All the nutrients we know that are important for infants are also in formula, but there may be others that we don’t know about yet that are responsible” for this small but significant effect. For example, beneficial fatty acids found in breast milk have been routinely added to formula in the United States since about 2002. But a class of carbohydrates called oligosaccharides found in breast milk and thought to be beneficial to a baby’s health and brain development is not yet found in formula, said Georgieff. In addition, it is difficult to make cow’s milk mimic human milk because “you just never get the entire matrix right – all the proteins and fats and all the live cells that are in there,” said Georgieff. “We are only starting to learn now what all those things are and how they work together.” 

The findings support the current breastfeeding recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics: Babies should be exclusively breastfed for about the first six months of life, meaning no additional foods or fluids unless medically indicated. Babies should continue to breastfeed for a year and for as long as mother and baby desire, says the academy. Also, The World Health Organization’s (WHO) facts on breastfeeding stipulates that breastfeeding is one of the most effective ways to ensure child health and survival.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on August 3,  2013.
Natural ways to manage lung disorders


Stay Healthy 

Routine activities, such as bathing, grooming and dressing, can take their toll on your energy if you have moderate or severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). But using some simple energy-conserving techniques can help you get through these tasks more quickly and with less effort. COPD is one of the most common lung diseases. 

It makes it difficult to breathe. There are two main forms of COPD: Chronic bronchitis, which involves a long-term cough with mucus and Emphysema, which involves destruction of the lungs over time. Most people with COPD have a combination of both conditions. Therefore, if you have lung disorder, the following guidelines will be of help. Two key principles to keep in mind: Plan to carry out these activities when you’re feeling most energetic, and gather all the supplies you will need before you start. 

Here are additional tips:  

Bathing and lung disorders 

• Instead of standing in the shower, use a bath stool or take baths. 

• Because excess humidity can make it tougher to breathe, use warm water rather than hot, leave the bathroom door open, turn on exhaust fans and open a window whenever possible. 

• If washing your hair is difficult, ask someone else to do it for you. 

• Use a long-handled brush or sponge so you won’t need to reach to wash your back and feet. 

• If you rely on oxygen, you can still use it while in the tub or shower – just drape the tube over the shower rod or side of the tub. 

• Dry off by wearing a long terry-cloth robe and blotting rather than using a towel to rub yourself dry – it takes less effort. Cosmetics and lung disorders 

• Choose a simple hairstyle that doesn’t require extensive blow drying or styling. 

• Conserve energy by sitting in front of a low mirror when shaving or applying makeup. 

• Avoid products that are aerosolized or heavily scented, which will irritate your lungs. Perfumes and colognes may also make it more difficult for you to breathe, so avoid using these products.   Dressing and lung disorders 

• Keep your clothes in places that do not require you to bend or reach. 

• If you are most energetic in the evenings, plan ahead and lay out tomorrow’s clothes the night before. 

• Avoid tight-fitting clothing that can make breathing difficult. For example, men can wear suspenders instead of belts, and women can wear camisoles or sports bras instead of regular bras. 

• Do not wear socks or stockings with elastic bands, since they can restrict circulation. (Support hosiery recommended by your doctor is the exception.) 

• Slip-on shoes mean you don’t have to bend over to tie shoelaces. A long shoehorn (12 to 18 inches) can also make it easier to put shoes on. 

• To conserve energy, stay seated as long as possible while dressing, and dress your lower half first, as it is usually more difficult. Putting your underwear inside your pants and pulling both on together may be helpful as well.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on July 27,  2013.
Role of bacteria in pancreatic cancer

By: Chioma Umeha

Health Editor A new research has shown that bacterial infections may play a role in triggering pancreatic cancer. There is growing number of studies which suggest the role of infections —primarily of the stomach and gums — in pancreatic cancer. 

The disease is a particularly deadly cancer, which the American Cancer Society estimates will kill nearly 38,500 Americans in 2013. “Pancreatic cancer is the worst form of cancer that people can have,” said Dr. Wasif Saif, director of the gastrointestinal oncology programme at Tufts Medical Center in Boston. “It’s the cancer with the highest mortality rate – 96 percent mortality,” he said. Although pancreatic cancer is extremely fatal, researchers don’t really know its main causes, Saif said. The known major risk factors account for less than 40 percent of all cases. 

Known risk factors for the disease include tobacco smoking, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, alcoholism and chronic pancreatitis, which is inflammation of the pancreas. “The major finding of this research is the possibility that bacterial infection may be leading to pancreatic cancer,” said Saif, who was not involved in the study. The findings were published online July 10 in the journal Carcinogenesis, and they were authored by Dominique Michaud, a professor of epidemiology at Brown University in Providence, R.I. Infections linked to cancer According to the study, two bacterial infections in particular have been strongly linked to pancreatic cancer in the scientific literature. Data suggest that people who have been infected with Helicobacter pylori, bacteria that is linked with stomach cancer and peptic ulcers, and Porphyrmomonas gingivalis, an infection involved in gum disease and poor dental hygiene, may be more prone to developing pancreatic cancer. 

Several theories aim to explain why these infections may be contributing to the progression of pancreatic cancer, Saif said. One is that the infections cause body wide inflammation, which is known to play a role in pancreatic cancer. A second possible mechanism is that these bacterial infections lead to changes in the immune system. When the immune system is weakened or altered by infection, it doesn’t work as well to defend the body against cancer. What’s more, risk factors for pancreatic cancer, such as smoking, obesity and diabetes, may further suppress immune response, opening the door to opportunistic infections, according to the study. Other theories proposed in the paper are that these bacterial infections may directly activate pancreatic tumour signalling pathways, such as those that promote the growth of new blood cells that feed a tumour. 

Another possibility is that infections indirectly activate pancreatic cancer pathways that trigger an immune response in the environment surrounding the cancer, but not in the tumour itself. Practical implications The idea that some bacterial infections can lead to certain cancers is not a new concept, Saif said. Researchers have been looking into this connection over the last decade, and have seen evidence of this association in blood cancers and solid tumours, he explained. Cancers known to be linked with infections include liver cancer, which is linked to the hepatitis B and C viruses; cervical cancer, which is closely tied to the human papilloma (HPV) virus; and cancer in the nose and upper throat, which is associated with the Epstein-Barr virus. 

A better understanding of the role of bacterial infections in pancreatic cancer may provide new opportunities for early detection and treatment, the paper suggested. These findings may help pancreatic cancer patients who often want to know why they are suffering the disease, Saif said. And family members may listen and help out more when patients are asked to change their lifestyle habits, such as not smoking or improving poor dental hygiene. In addition, these findings “open new doors to research to look into pathways that may develop new therapies to treat this cancer,” Saif said.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on July 27,  2013.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Cardiovascular summit kicks off


The sixth edition of the cardiovascular (CV) summit, an educational platform for healthcare practitioners to engage in a robust discussion on the current trends in cardiovascular disease and its management, organised by Pfizer NEAR (Nigeria and East Africa Region) kicked off yesterday. The 2013 edition has the theme ‘’Preventive Strategies for Cardiovascular Diseases’’   features both foreign and local distinguished resource persons who are highly respected in their field of practice. 

A statement yesterday, signed by Mrs Margaret Olele, Director Communications, Pfizer, said that the summit has witnessed growing popularity among healthcare professionals. In 2011, the CV summit was endorsed by the medical and Dental Council of Nigeria as a continuous professional development (CPD) program provider for the award of class medical education (CME) points to attending clinicians. In a bid to continuously improve the outlook of the summit, a scientific advisory board composed of seasoned professionals spanning various field of cardiovascular medicine was inaugurated in March, last year, to oversee the content and conduct of the CV summit. 

The summit is part of Pfizer contribution to the advancement of medicl knowledge and patient care in Nigeria and East Africa Region. This further exemplifies the commitment of Pfizer to world class medical education, capacity building and excellence in service to the Nigerian Health Sector. According to Olele, Pfizer’s corporate social responbility (CSR) recognises the rising burden/incidence of cardiovascular diseases in the country and is consistently working with key stakeholders through free screenings, medical education and trainings for HCPS and public awareness. 

Cardiovascular screening project involves the free CV medical screening of the general public and it addresses the growing concern of cardiovascular diseases in Africa.  The screenings are held in pharmacies, hospitals, non –government agencies, and corporate establishment and also in partnership with health care institutions. It covers health parameters like blood pressure, glucose and cholesterol. Pfizer conducted free screenings for about 20,000 persons since 2010. Pfizer in partnership with stakeholders in healthcare sector have conducted screenings at major teaching hospitals and general hospitals like Lagos University teaching Hospital (LUTH), university of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH) and University College (UCH) to increase awareness of disease conditions and appropriate management of the condition.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on August 1,  2013.
Teenagers risk kidney transplant failure – Study


Global research has discovered that teenagers who receive kidney transplant is at risk of transplant failure even as African patients accounts for the highest number. An agency report yesterday, said that teenagers who receive a kidney transplant may be at increased risk of transplant failure, and the risk is especially high among African patients. 

Researchers analyzed data from nearly 169,000 patients in the United States who received a first kidney transplant between 1987 and 2010. Patients who were aged 14 to 16 when they received their first transplant had the highest risk of transplant failure, beginning at one year after transplant and increasing at three, five and 10 years after transplant, said Dr. Kenneth Andreoni, of the University of Florida, Gainesville, and colleagues. In this age group, the risk of transplant failure was highest among African patients, according to the study published online July 29 in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. 

Along with recipients’ age, other factors that affected the risk of transplant failure were donor type (living versus deceased) and insurance type (public versus private), the investigators found. Among 14-year-old recipients, the risk of death was 175 percent higher among those who had public insurance and received a kidney from a deceased donor, compared to those who had private insurance and received a kidney from a living donor. Survival rates were nearly identical for patients who had public insurance and received a kidney from a living donor and those who had private insurance and received a kidney from a deceased donor, the results showed. The findings indicate that special programmes are needed for teenagers who receive a kidney transplant, the study authors noted in a journal news release. 

“The realization that this age group is at an increased risk of graft loss as they are becoming young adults should prompt providers to give specialized care and attention to these adolescents in the transition from paediatric to adult-focused care. Implementing a structured health care transition preparation programme from paediatric to adult-centred care in transplant centres may improve outcomes,” Andreoni and colleagues concluded.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on August 1,  2013.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Pregnancy, abortions cause high death of young girls

By: Chioma Umeha

Adolescent pregnancy has been identified as one of the reasons why young females don’t realise their full potential and experts have called for action to improve adolescent sexual and reproductive health education on this year’s world population day. 

United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, in his message for the world population day 2013 expressed the need to devote attention and resources to the education, health and wellbeing of adolescent girls for sustainable positive change in society. “On this World Population Day, let us pledge to support adolescent girls to realize their potential and contribute to our shared future,” he said. Globally, about 16 million girls under age 18 give birth each year and 3.2 million undergo unsafe abortions. 

Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General, United Nations
In Nigeria, young people contribute more than 60 per cent of unsafe abortions annually, according to a study by Campaign Against Unwanted Pregnancy (CAUP) in 2006. A statement by the Executive Director of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, on this year’s World Population Day reveals that complications from pregnancy and child birth are the leading cause of death among girls aged 15-19 in developing countries. 

These complications may cause obstetric fistula, illness, injury and death. Several social, cultural and economic factors are responsible for adolescent pregnancy, one of such is early marriage, the 2005 National HIV/AIDS and Reproductive Health Survey reveals that 73 per cent of girls between the ages of 13 and 19 years are married in the North-eastern States of Nigeria. The number of married adolescents in North West and North East Nigeria make up about 42 per cent of the total number of Nigerian married adolescents aged 15 – 19, contributing  an estimated 71 per cent of the annual births by Nigerians in the 15 – 19 age group. 

UNFPA Executive Director’s statement further states that “adolescent pregnancy is not just a health issue, it is a development issue. It is deeply rooted in poverty, gender inequality, violence, child and forced marriage, power imbalances between adolescent girls and their male partners, lack of education, and the failure of systems and institutions to protect their rights”

This story was published in Newswatch Times on July 18,  2013.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Memory decline, sign of mental problem – Experts

By: Chioma Umeha

Global findings have revealed that memory issues could be dangerous signal of mental problems and no just normal part of aging. An agency report during the week said: “Memory problems that are often dismissed as a normal part of aging may not be so harmless after all. “Noticing you have a decline beyond the occasional misplaced car keys or forgotten name could be the very earliest sign of Alzheimer’s,” several research teams have reported. 

Doctors often regard people who complain that their memory is slipping as “the worried well,” but the new studies show they may well have reason to worry, said Maria Carrillo, a senior scientist at the Alzheimer’s Association. One study found that self-reported memory changes preceded broader mental decline by about six years. Another tied these changes to evidence on brain scans that dementia are setting in. “Maybe these people know something about themselves” that their doctors don’t, “and maybe we should pay attention to them,” said Dorene Rentz, a Massachusetts General Hospital psychologist. She helped run one of the studies, which were discussed Wednesday at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Boston. About 35 million people worldwide have dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type. It causes a slow decline in thinking and reasoning ability. 

Memory trouble that disrupts daily life is one symptom. Don’t panic, though: The researchers are not talking about “senior moments,” those small, temporary lapses most everyone has, said Creighton Phelps, a neuroscientist with the U.S. National Institute on Aging. They are talking about real memory loss, in which the information doesn’t come back to you later, not even when people remind you of what you forgot, he explained. A true decline is a change in your normal pattern. “You’re starting to forget things now that you normally didn’t — doctor appointments, luncheon engagements, the kids are coming over … things that a year or two ago you wouldn’t,” said Dr. Ronald Petersen, director of the Mayo Clinic’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. Pati Hoffman, of Carol Stream, Ill., near Chicago, used to design menus and organize events for restaurants but began forgetting where she filed things in her computer. “I really just kind of started struggling. 

Something wasn’t right. I would have to bring my work home, spread it all over the floor, sort it and then try to get it done so that nobody at work would know I was having this difficulty,” she said. Driving to familiar places, “I would think, ‘I know where I am, but I don’t know how to get out of here.’” Two neurologists said it was just stress and anxiety, and one prescribed an antidepressant. A third finally diagnosed her with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease four years ago. She was 56. The new studies were on “subjective cognitive decline” — when people first notice they are having trouble, even if they test normal on mental ability tests: — Richard Kryscio at the University of Kentucky led a study of 531 people, average age 73. Those who reported a change in memory or thinking abilities since their last doctor visit were nearly twice as likely to be diagnosed with dementia or mild cognitive impairment about six to nine years later. — Researchers from the French government’s health agency and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston studied 3,861 nurses at least 70 years old who were asked about memory symptoms and periodically tested for them later. 

About 900 of them carried a gene that raises their risk for dementia. Among the gene carriers, worry about a single memory symptom predicted verbal memory decline on tests over the next six years. In the others without the gene, worry about three or more memory symptoms was linked to memory decline on tests. — Rebecca Amariglio and other Harvard researchers found that complaints about memory decline matched how much sticky plaque researchers saw on brain scans of 189 people 65 and older. This confirms an earlier study of 131 people that tied memory complaints to these brain plaques, the hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. — Reports of memory impairment were closely tied to a decline later in the ability to recall events in a study of 2,230 people, average age 80, by researchers at the University of Bonn in Germany. — Petersen said that a study he and others soon will report shows that complaints about memory predicted who would later develop mild cognitive impairment — what used to be called “pre-Alzheimer’s” — in a random sample of 1,500 people in the community near the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. “If you notice a change in your pattern of either yourself or a loved one, seek a health care professional’s evaluation,” said Heather Snyder, the Alzheimer’s Association’s director of medical and scientific operations. “It could be a lack of sleep or nutritional, but it may be something more than that.” 

But don’t worry about small, common memory slips, said Dr. Reisa Sperling, director of the Alzheimer’s center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “Every time you forget someone’s name, you don’t need to go running to the doctor,” she said. 

The Alzheimer’s Association lists 10 warning signs of the disease: 
  • Memory changes that disrupt daily life 
  • Challenges in planning or solving problems 
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure 
  • Confusion with time or place 
  • Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships 
  • New problems with words in speaking or writing 
  • Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps 
  • Decreased or poor judgment 
  • Withdrawal from work or social activities 
  • Changes in mood and personality.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on July 20,  2013.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Senate erred on underage marriage – FIDA


International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), Nigeria, has condemned the resolution recently passed by the Senate to retain the constitutional provisions that considers a married underage girl as an adult.  A statement issued yesterday and jointly signed by the National President, Hauwa Evelyn Shekarau, and National Secretary, Chigoziri Ojiaka, said the decision of the lawmakers contradicts the views of Nigerians as expressed during the recent constituencies consultations, which was part of the ongoing constitutional review process. 

“FIDA, Nigeria, expresses her utter dissatisfaction with the resolution passed by the Senate to retain the provisions of section 29 (4) (b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which deems a married underage girl as an adult, contrary to the general views of Nigerians as expressed during the recent constituencies consultations conducted as part of the ongoing Constitutional Review process.” The statement added that the retention of the section in the constitution also negates the country’s commitment to different international and regional treaties it is signatory to. 

The treaties include the Convention on the Rights of the Child, African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and African Union Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, which all prohibit child marriages. “For section 29 (4) (b) to continue to remain in our constitution is a clear negation of Nigeria’s commitment to different international and regional treaties such as The Convention on the Rights of the Child, The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and The AU Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa which all prohibit child marriages.” 

FIDA reiterated that based on the views of Nigerians during the constituencies consultations, the section should be deleted from the constitution. It urged the Senate to respect the views of the people. “It therefore behooves on the Senate to grant Nigerians their desired wish, rather than allow itself to be deterred by the views of an individual borne out of purely selfish considerations,” FIDA said. It added, “It is generally accepted that ‘The voice of the people is the voice of God.’ We therefore call on the Senate to hearken to the voice of the people by reviewing and reconsidering the resolution, and by so doing etch their names in gold for history.” 

This story was published in Newswatch Times on July 24,  2013.
WHO, NAFDAC partners to end fake drug menace


It may no longer be business as usual for fake drugs in Africa, Nigeria included, as World Health Organisation, WHO, has teamed with the National Agency for Food and Drug Administrative Control, NAFDAC, to adopt a new strategy to put surveillance system to detect any form of fake drugs in countries across the continent. 

The system, Rapid Alert System, is a surveillance system aimed at monitoring of substandard, spurious, falsely labelled/ falsified Counterfeit (SSFFC) medical products, with the intention of training focal persons from different countries’ medicine regulatory authorities on the use new WHO initiative for SSFFC reporting – The Rapid Alert System. The Director General of NAFDAC, Paul Orhii said, at the opening of a three-day workshop, in Lagos last week, that it has become imperative to continually fight the scourge of fake drugs, not only in Nigeria, but also in other neighbouring countries in Africa. Orhii linked treatment failures and development of drug resistance to SSFFC medical products. 

Dr Paul Orhii, Director General, NAFDAC
with other officials of the agency
He further explained that SSFFC medical products provides hostile business environment for manufacturers, importers and health care providers. The NAFDAC boss further lamented that it denies access to quality medicines leading to untimely death of many unsuspecting citizens. The DG noted that drug counterfeiting is a global problem, adding that it is more prevalent in developing nations where counterfeiters target drugs used in high volume for managing diseases of public health importance. 

He regretted the level of sophistication among counterfeiters who produce nearly exact replicas of genuine drugs, copying every detail including packaging and labelling. His words: “Drug counterfeiting is a global problem. It is more prevalent in developing nations where counterfeiters target drugs that are used in high volume for managing diseases of public health importance. Counterfeiters produce nearly exact replicas of genuine drugs, copying every detail including packaging and labelling. They have even advanced to imitating holograms and other sophisticated printing techniques. He continued: “SSFFC medical products have been identified as one of the factors responsible for treatment failures and development of drug resistance. The scenario has created unfavourable business environment for manufacturers, importers and health care providers. More importantly and regretfully, it has denied access to quality medicines and caused untimely death of many innocent citizens and families creating serious embarrassments for the Governments.” 

The NAFDAC boss regretted the regulation gap and poor technical capacities, a consequence of circulation of SSFFC medical products. “Many member countries have noted the regulatory gaps and poor technical capacities that have led to the continued circulation of SSFFC medical products in our region. Apart from the survey conducted by DFID/WHO and NAFDAC in 2005 on the prevalence of counterfeit drugs in Nigeria, there has not been any other study to determine the extent the problem whether nationally, regionally or internationally,” he said. According to him, the WHO SSFFC Global Surveillance and Monitoring project is therefore designed to significantly improve the quality and quantity of data concerning SSFFC products through the systematic and structured reporting via a Rapid Alert System to the world health body. 

The system is designed to allow a more detailed analysis of incidents, to be carried out by the WHO in order to establish a clearer view of the threat posed to public health by SSFFC medical products. The workshop was aimed at training local stakeholders in West Africa on the need to keep daily surveillance to detect fake drugs. The workshop, which had over 17 African countries, in Lagos, gave opportunity to each country representatives having noticed the regulatory gaps and poor technical capacities that have led to the continued circulation of SSFFC medical products in Africa. “Apart from the survey conducted by the British Department For International Development (DFID)/WHO and NAFDAC in 2005 on the prevalence of counterfeit drugs in Nigeria, there has not been any other study to determine the extent of the problem whether nationally, regionally or internationally”. 

The WHO SSFFC Global Surveillance and Monitoring project is therefore designed to significantly improve the quality and quantity of data concerning SSFFC products through the systematic and structured reporting via a Rapid Alert System to the WHO. The system is designed to allow a more detailed analysis of incidents, to be carried out by WHO in order to establish a clearer view of the threat posed to public health by SSFFC medical products. Meanwhile, the Project Coordinator, WHO, Deats Michael, noted that monitoring and surveillance are important for any project to succeed. Deploying the right instruments for data collection and analysis is essential for success. The importance of statistics to obtaining a clearer of the global and regional anti-counterfeiting challenge cannot be over emphasised. He said: “The Rapid Alert System will foster greater collaboration on anti counterfeiting within the sub-region and the African continent effort for hosting this workshop. 

Michael added that the workshop is aimed at encouraging pilot countries to establish networks within their respective countries with the support of Pharmacovigilance, laboratory experts and other relevant stakeholders to generate and forward standardised reports on SSFFC medical products to the world health body.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on July 11,  2013.
Type 2 diabetes linked to skipping breakfast

By: Chioma Umeha

That breakfast is the most important meal of the day is not news. However, new study has shown how harmful missing that first meal may be. A new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that women who skipped breakfast even once a week were 20 per cent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who ate a meal every morning. 

The study looked at data from more than 45,000 women who were initially free of cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes, and assessed their eating patterns over a six-year period. Those who chose to forego breakfast but ate frequently (four or more times a day) had a greater risk of developing diabetes, while a lower body mass index (BMI) seemed to mitigate some of the danger associated with irregular breakfast consumption. Translation: skipping breakfast isn’t a smart idea for anyone, but seems to be even more harmful for those who are overweight. 

According to the study, male breakfast skippers are also at risk. Another recent large scale study shows a similar effect on men. After tracking over 29,000 men for 16 years, researchers found that men who skipped breakfast had a 21 percent higher risk of developing diabetes. Other researchers have come to similar conclusions, hypothesizing that breakfast may play a role in stabilizing blood sugar levels throughout the day. In fact, a new but much smaller study showed that eating breakfast reduces overall diabetes risk for overweight women. 

Insulin levels were higher after missing breakfast, and researchers believe that missing that meal may lead to insulin resistance, the root cause of type 2 diabetes. 
To be continued…

This story was published in Newswatch Times on July 13,  2013.
Avon HMO debuts with promise of health care, new insurance standards

By: Chioma Umeha

A health management organisation – Avon Healthcare Limited (Avon HMO) – which debuted in Lagos, recently, has pledged to offer a new approach in the management of health care and insurance. Avon HMO introduced a wide array of products and services to the market, during its brand launch Thursday, at the ultra-modern Intercontinental Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos. 

The management of Avon HMO said the launch set the tone for how the company plans to engage with key stakeholders and partners, including governments and senior public officials; leading corporate organisations; key SMEs as well as Healthcare professionals and providers. Speaking at the media conference in Lagos, Avon HMO’s CEO, Mrs. Simbo Ukiri, said the company aims to be the preferred choice for healthcare solutions and will set new standards in the industry. Ukiri added that the new standards will offer real value to clients, enrolled members and providers, even in service delivery. She said: “Avon HMO has adopted a completely different approach. We want our clients, enrolled members and partners to know that we listen, and that we have the right people, skills and technology to meet their healthcare needs at the right price and in the most responsive and efficient manner. 

“We don’t simply sell health plans; we give clients and members access to healthcare solutions that are relevant to their needs, improving quality of life and promoting soundness of mind and body which accelerates productivity and enhances the creation of wealth, the Avon HMO boss said. “We share NHIS’s passion under the leadership of Dr. Abdulrahman Sambo, for our country Nigeria, to achieve universal health insurance coverage. Working together with all stakeholders, we believe this is possible sooner rather than later.We want to add meaningful value to the many people who will use our services, so that we are touching lives, even as we do our part to improve Nigeria’s healthcare industry,” the Managing Director said. She also said that Avon HMO offers health insurance plans, health risk assessment, occupational health management, employee well-being and other services to individuals, families, groups, companies and the government. 

Ukiri noted that the Avon HMO’s full range of carefully designed health plans provides increasing levels of care which cover typical ailments and procedures that are treatable within and outside the country. “We have in our team some of the best and most experienced professionals you can find in this sector. Our partner provider network, which is still growing, covers all medical specialty areasand includes over 300 hospitals, clinics and referral centres spread across the 36 states and major local government areas in Nigeria” said Ukiri. 

The Avon HMO team said that it is excited to be entering the scene when transformation of the country’s healthcare sector is high on everyone’s agenda. According to them, the company has equipped itself to contribute significantly to the achievement of the country’s aspirations and yearning of Nigerians for convenient access to world best standard healthcare services.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on July 13,  2013.
Killing of 42 students violates international law – UNICEF

By: Chioma Umeha

Global efforts towards the child survival agenda has continued to suffer set-backs in Nigeria, following the incessant brutal killing of children in the North eastern part of the country. Nigerians woke up Saturday to the shocking news of the killing of 42 students of the Government Secondary School, Mamudo by suspected members of the Boko Haram sect. 

The development is coming on the heels of The Lancet 2012 report, which raised the alarm that the world is not on track to meet the set Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 4, a two-thirds reduction in child deaths between 1990 and 2015. This is even as the reports still show existing gap in child survival chances with the death of 6·9 million children under the age of 5 years in 2011. “Recent international initiatives, such as Every Woman Every Child, the UN Commission on ‘Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children, and A Promise Renewed,’ which reinvigorated the child survival agenda. But the job is far from finished. Time trends hide the real tragedy 6·9 million children under the age of 5 years still died in 2011, largely from preventable causes,” The Lancet 2012 report said. Spokesperson of Joint Military Task Force in Yobe state, Lieutenant Eli Lazarus, said the attackers stormed the school and began shooting from different directions. An official of the Potiskum General Hospital, Haliru Aliyua, also confirmed the casualty saying: “We received 42 dead bodies of students and other staff of Government Secondary School (in) Mamudo last night. Some of them had gunshot wounds while many of them had burns and ruptured tissues.” It was earlier reported that 29 students and a teacher were killed in the attack on a boarding school in the northeast Nigerian town of Potiskum. 

The attackers set fire to buildings and shot pupils as they tried to flee, a source said. “From accounts of teachers and other students who escaped the attack, the gunmen gathered their victims in a hostel and threw explosives and opened fire, leading to the death of 42,” Aliyu said. “So far six students have been found and are now in the hospital being treated for gunshot wounds,” he added. Several students are still in the hospital. This latest incident has sparked panic among the student population in the state, as many left their dormitories for home even before schools were shut by the government. Mamudo is some five kilometers from Potiskum, the commercial hub of Yobe state, which has been a flashpoint in the Boko Haram insurgency in recent months. Yobe state is  one of the three states currently under emergency rule imposed by the Federal Government. 

Meanwhile, secondary schools in the state have reportedly now been closed until the start of the new academic term in September, to allow state and federal government officials, as well as community leaders, work on ways to guarantee the safety of the students. However, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and a top child rights envoy have condemned the recent attack on a school in north-east Nigeria, urging that the perpetrators be brought to justice. According to the international agency for the child, annihilation of children is against global child survival and rights. The UNICEF’s Regional Director for West and Central Africa, Manuel Fontaine said: “As we extend our sympathy to the families of the victims, we would say in the strongest possible terms that there can be no justification for the deliberate targeting of children and those looking after them. “UNICEF calls for those responsible to be brought to justice and for communities to demand that schools be considered as places of safety,” it stated in a news release. 

The agency noted that since 16 June, no fewer than 48 students and seven teachers have reportedly been killed in four attacks in the region. Leila Zerrougui, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, also expressed concern at the recent spike in incidents affecting schools and children in the region and called on the Nigerian Government to investigate these “heinous” crimes and hold the perpetrators accountable. She called on those responsible to refrain from any attacks directed at or in the vicinity of schools, and warned that the killing and maiming of children, as well as attacks on schools, teachers and school children are serious violations of international law.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on July 13,  2013.

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