Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Global leaders call for increased financing to end malaria

As global leaders gather in Addis Ababa for the 3rd International Conference on Financing for Development (FfD), the malaria community has outlined a vision for a malaria-free world and, in order to achieve it, called for increased investment in malaria control and elimination efforts around the world to bring an end to this costly scourge. Government leaders, UN officials and development stakeholders at the conference highlighted malaria as a cost-effective investment for development and urged greater commitment to build on the unprecedented progress seen under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). 

This call comes just months before the UN Member States plan to adopt a new set of Global Goals for Sustainable Development which calls for malaria elimination by 2030. As part of the conference, a special side event titled; Malaria Financing for a New Era: An Exceptional Case for Investment, which was convened by the Prime Minister HailemariamDessalegn of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, host country of the conference and Chair of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance. 

Dessalegn said: “I am now convinced more than ever before that we can achieve our ambitious goal and eliminate malaria from our continent.” Participants at the conference said: “With greater coordination and increased financing, malaria has been one of the great success stories of the MDG era, with more than six million deaths projected to have been averted between 2000 and 2015, primarily of children less than five years old in sub-Saharan Africa. In that period, globally there has been a 58 per cent decline in mortality. Yet more than half of the world’s population remains at risk of malaria infection, representing an alarming threat to global development. 

Sleeping under treated mosquito net

The disease is still endemic in 97 countries and territories around the world. Each year, malaria costs the African continent alone an estimated minimum of US $12 billion in lost productivity, and in some high-burden countries it can account for as much as 40 per cent of public health expenditure. During this special session on financing for malaria elimination, leaders also presented a new strategic vision toward malaria elimination, outlined in the World Health Organization’s Global Technical Strategy for Malaria 2016-2030, which was previously approved by the World Health Assembly and lays out the technical strategy needed to continue driving down the burden of malaria, and the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership’s Action and Investment to defeat Malaria 2016-2030 (AIM) – for a malaria-free world, which charts the investment and collective actions needed to reach the 2030 malaria goals. 

Together, these complementary documents provide the technical guidance and a framework for action and investment to achieve ambitious malaria elimination targets and unlock unprecedented economic potential in communities around the world. “As we move toward a new set of global goals for sustainable development, we have an unprecedented opportunity to put an end to the global threat of malaria once and for all,” said Mr. Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary-General. “And we have the strategic vision to do so, as outlined in WHO’s Global Technical Strategy for Malaria and the Roll Back Malaria Partnership’s Action and Investment to Defeat Malaria.” Malaria control has long been proven to be one of the most cost-effective public health investments. 

With more countries around the world shifting their focus to ambitious elimination targets for the first time in history, and new regional commitments to malaria elimination announced in the Americas, Eastern Mediterranean, Asia Pacific and Africa, experts estimate that the return on investment will only continue expanding. Analysis in the AIM document suggests that the global return on investment in malaria elimination by 2030 could reach a staggering 40:1, rising to an unprecedented 60:1 return on investment if malaria is eliminated in sub-Saharan Africa alone. “Investing in malaria is one of the best buys in global health,” said Ray Chambers, the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Financing the Health MDGs and for Malaria. 

“As a businessman, I would urge every country to look at financing malaria control as an investment that will generate real returns as a key driver of growth, not as a cost.” During this financing for malaria event, leaders highlighted the importance of both continued financing by the international donor community and increased domestic financing by affected countries, noting the need for these to be supplemented by innovative financing mechanisms that encourage deeper participation and investment by the private sector and which could include trust funds and malaria-related bonds. “The next five years will be critical to get us on the right path to achieve the 2030 targets. 

We must close the funding gaps and double current malaria financing by 2020,” said Dr. FatoumataNafo-Traoré, Executive Director of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership. “The amount is ambitious, but the investment carries a significant return and could save over 10 million lives, avert nearly 3 billion malaria cases and unlock over US $4 trillion in additional global economic output across the 2016-2030 timeframe.” For the first time in history, the possibility of eliminating the scourge of malaria from the world is before us. 

It demands vision, courage, investment and patience over the next 15 years which would lead to faster reduction in poverty and accelerated economic development, enhanced educational attainment and vastly improved national systems to respond effectively to health security threats.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on July 18, 2015.

Simple ways to manage heartburn

Do you often struggle with acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and heartburn? No matter what you call it, it all comes down to the same uncomfortable symptoms: belching, regurgitation, indigestion, nausea – even chest pain.

You may find it embarrassing or frustrating to talk about your heartburn symptoms, but you’re far from being alone in your discomfort. It’s estimated that 14 to 21 per cent of American adults are affected by heartburn and together they spend $14 billion annually to treat it.

If it is more than occasional heartburn – your GERD symptoms can be serious. The acid and digestive enzymes from the stomach that back up, or reflux, into the esophagus can damage the tissues in the esophagus and in the adjacent organs such as the mouth, throat, voice box and lungs. Left untreated, heartburn can lead to complications – esophageal ulcers, esophageal strictures and esophageal cancer.
If you have symptoms of heartburn, it’s important to learn everything you can now – so you can partner with your doctor effectively, ask the right questions and understand the answers.

Can drinking milk help my heartburn?
You may have heard that drinking a glass of milk can relieve heartburn. While it’s true that milk can temporarily buffer stomach acid, nutrients in milk, particularly fat, will stimulate the stomach to produce more acid. Even though milk might not be a great heartburn remedy, it’s a rich source of bone-building calcium. Try fat-free skim milk and don’t overdo it. Drink no more than eight ounces of skim milk at a time – as a snack in between meals. Overfilling the stomach may increase heartburn.

Is chewing gum an effective way to get heartburn relief?
It may sound strange, but gum stimulates the production of saliva, which is an acid buffer. Plus, chewing gum makes you swallow more often, which pushes those nasty acids back out of your esophagus. When you pick a pack of gum, just make sure it’s sugar-free so you also protect your teeth.

A few simple strategies can help soothe the burn of heartburn:
  • Watch what you eat. Avoid specific foods that trigger your heartburn, but also watch out for peppermint, caffeine, sodas, chocolate, citrus fruits and juices, tomatoes, onions, and high-fat foods. Eat more fiber to keep your digestive tract moving and healthy. Also reduce your portion sizes. Try eating five or six small meals a day, rather than three big ones. Eating too much at once is a big heartburn trigger.
  • Watch when you eat. Push away the plate at least two or three hours before bedtime so your stomach has a chance to empty before you lie down.
  • Watch how you eat. Eat slowly, taking smaller bites.
  • Lose weight. Excess abdominal fat can press against the stomach, forcing acids up into the esophagus. Follow a diet and exercise program to shed extra pounds.
  • Keep a diary. Write down what you’ve eaten and when your heartburn symptoms occur so you can pinpoint which foods are your triggers and avoid them.
  • Toss the cigarettes. Smoking can reduce the effectiveness of the muscle that keeps acids in the stomach. For this, and so many other health reasons, it’s always the perfect time to quit.
  • Loosen your belt. Ditch the skin-tight jeans. Tight clothes put added pressure on the abdomen.
  • Tilt up. Put wood blocks under your bed to raise the head about six inches. Don’t bother raising your pillows, though – it’s not effective for heartburn.
  • Work it out. Exercise may protect against the acid reflux that leads to heartburn.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on July 18, 2015.

Agonies of internally displaced persons

Neighbours call him Rasak. He told our reporter that he is nine and an escapee from Dalori camp in Maiduguri, Borno State. Beside him were women with children appearing dejected and not sure of what tomorrow will bring for them. These women were seen at Egbeda Bus-stop, Lagos with tattered, worn-out clothes together with their belongings which appeared worthless and plates begging. 

One of the women who spoke to our reporter confirmed that they were escapees from Dalori camp in Maiduguri, adding that the boy escaped with them. In smattering pidgin, she said that the boy lost his parents in a recent skirmish involving Islamist insurgents, known as Boko Haram and local hunters who attempted to ward them off. Rasak made it to the camp with a group of internally displaced persons, IDPs, who have no home or place to go after the militants sacked their villages and towns in Maiduguri. She also said that they were being taken care of by National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) along with the boy and other minors who have no relatives. 

However, she said that they left the camp after an attack by the dreaded insurgents attacked the village near the camp. Some of them who were seen with babies told gory tales of how pregnant women of how women deliver their babies through the help of unskilled medical attendants. Amina Yusuf, from Dalori, travelled to a small village near Ngala LGA to be delivered of her baby. On getting to the place, she learnt that doctors and nurses had deserted the hospitals. She had to move to another town. But, the village has also been sacked by insurgents. She eventually delivered without skilled medical attendants. 

A typical picture of Internal displaced persons’ camp.

These women and Rasak are among the over one million victims of the insurgency currently ravaging the northern part of the country. The issue was the focus at a recent United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) facilitated meeting on emergencies, ethical reporting and human interest stories in Kano. According to the IOM DTM report in April, there are 1.3 million IDPs in the three North East states, indicating almost 300,000 newly displaced people since February. 

While these refugees, known more as IDPs have suffered deprivations in terms of death of loved ones, displacements from home and familiar environment, the bigger problem has been in sustaining and resettling the IDPs. Speaking during the meeting on emergencies, ethical reporting and human interest stories, Soji Adeniyi, UNICEF’S Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, said: “Since 2011, the population of the North East of Nigeria States have been affected by the insurgency between Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, commonly known as ‘Boko Haram’, and governmental forces. “The government declared a State of Emergency (SoE) on 14 May 2013 in the three North Eastern states of Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa and imposed curfews. According to the IOM DTM report in April 2015, there are 1.3 million IDPs in the three North East states, indicating almost 300,000 newly displaced people since February. 

Of the estimated 1,307,763 IDPs in Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa states, 89.9 per cent live with host communities, while only 10.1 per cent live in camps.” Those that arrive at the camps are registered and given access to necessities such as food, water, health care, shelter and education. The majority of IDPs, however, never make it into a formal camp. Some are turned away because the camps are overcrowded. Others are too afraid to enter the camps, and hide out in remote villages. Many people end up sleeping under trees, in abandoned churches and school buildings, or in empty fields. 

International organisations believe that only a minority are going into formal IDP camps and the majority are moving into host communities and so it may be difficult to know how many they are and to register them in order to provide assistance. Geoffrey Njoku, Communication Specialist, UNICEF and Judith Giwa-Amu, UNICEF Education Officer, said that education is critical in ensuring the protection of children by offering a safe environment Judith stressed in her presentation stressed: “Access to education in conditions of crisis is important because, education is a fundamental right of all children (Article 28 of CRC).”

This story was published in Newswatch Times on July 16, 2015.

National Health Act critical to achieving universal health coverage – Experts

Universal Health Coverage (UHC) has been an issue of serious global concern with international health organisations and professionals advocating for the implementation of the system which is believed to provide health care and financial protection for all. The issue was the focus at a one-day symposium on the National Health Act, entitled: ‘‘Achieving Universal Health Coverage in Nigeria,’’ organised by the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Yaba, to mark the fifth year anniversary of Prof. 

Innocent Ujah as Director-General of the institute. Making their presentations at the symposium, experts and researchers from various public health institutions urged government to implement the recently passed National Health Act, saying that it would lead to the achievement of universal health coverage in Nigeria. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Universal coverage (UC), or universal health coverage (UHC), is defined as ensuring that all people can use the promotive, preventive, curative, rehabilitative and palliative health services they need, of sufficient quality to be effective, while also ensuring that the use of these services does not expose the user to financial hardship. 

Prof. Oni Idigbe, former Director General, Nigeria Institute of Medical Research (NIMR); Prof. Innocent Ujah, Director General, NIMR; Prof. Kofo Odeyemi, Professor of Public Health, College of Medicine (CMUL) and Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) and Barrister Ali Emmanuel, Administrator, ADR Track during the a one-day symposium on “National Health Act: Achieving Universal Healthcare Coverage in Nigeria,” organised to mark the fifth year anniversary of Prof. Ujah as Director-General of the institute recently.

This definition of UC embodies three related objectives: equity in access to health services – those who need the services should get them, not only those who can pay for them; that the quality of health services is good enough to improve the health of those receiving services; and financial-risk protection – ensuring that the cost of using care does not put people at risk of financial hardship. Universal coverage brings the hope of better health and protection from poverty for hundreds of millions of people – especially those in the most vulnerable situations. Against this background, Dr Mohammed Lecky, the Executive Director, Health Reform Foundation of Nigeria (HERFON), who was the guest speaker during the symposium on Wednesday, called on the Federal Government to fully implement the National Health Act which he linked to the achievement of the universal health coverage in the country. Lecky made the call describing the act as a rallying framework toward achieving universal health coverage in the country. 

The Executive Director, HEFRON said: ‘’The act is inclusive and unifies health services for the regulation, development and the management of the nation’s health system. ‘’If this act is well implemented without corruption, it will reshape the Nigerian health landscape to the extent that all Nigerians, without any exception, would be entitled to basic minimum package to health services,” he added. ‘’Healthcare will be accessible and affordable to all. Perfecting the strategies of implementing the health act is the only way to achieve universal health coverage in Nigeria,’’ he said. Lecky concluded: “Finally, as we transition to the post-2015 era, the inherent capacity of the National Health Act to re-shape tie Nigeria health landscape is as real as it is ambitious. 

It is a unifying legislation, coherent, clear and an unambiguously most powerful piece of legislation (some would say since independence) that is aimed at social equity and justice. “We should have good reasons to expect great things on account of the National Health Act in years ahead. But, can we rise to this collective challenge? Lecky asked rhetorically? Also speaking, Prof. Akin Osibogun, a former Chief Medical Director of Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), said that research was a vital tool in advancing medical practice in the country. Osibogun who was the Chairman of the occasion said that the medical care being enjoyed was as a result of investigation and research into diseases of public health and the invention of treatments. 

He urged the management of the institute to continue to contribute to the revolution in medical knowledge in Nigeria through intensified and sustainable health research. In his remarks, Dr Kayode Obembe, the National President, Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), said that universal health coverage could not be achieved without collaborative efforts by all stakeholders. Ujah had earlier decried poor funding and lack of sufficient capacity for health research in the country. He expressed concern that only two per cent of the annual allocation to health was expended on research. 

According to him, majority of researches in the country today are dependent on foreign grants. “We call on the Federal Government to set aside a fund reserve for health researches for continuous research activities in the country. ‘’This will help in keeping the country ready for emergencies like the recent Ebola outbreak. “Also, it will set her on the path of progress and development as well as universal health coverage,’’ he said. 

This story was published in Newswatch Times on July 11, 2015.

Guidelines to treating heart disease

Recently, seven leading medical societies, including the American Heart Association and the American College of Physicians jointly published revised clinical practice guidelines for treating patients with stable ischemic heart disease — that is, coronary heart disease (CHD) with manageable symptoms. 

CHD is a narrowing of the coronary arteries caused by plaque build-up, which impairs the body’s ability to pump sufficient blood to the heart. CHD can lead to serious complications, such as chest pain (angina), heart attacks, heart failure and irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias). What works if you have CHD Lifestyle interventions and drug therapies: The first step toward keeping heart disease stable is to eliminate unhealthy lifestyle behaviours. 

The guidelines mostly stick with the tried and true: Eat a healthy diet, control your weight, get regular physical activity, quit smoking, avoid second-hand smoke, manage stress and depression. The new guidelines also add a warning to avoid air pollution. Drugs can help prevent a heart attack and reduce symptoms – a fact that the new guidelines strongly emphasize. They suggest that patients with stable CHD be placed on moderate- to high-dose statins. Bile acid sequestrants, niacin or both are recommended if you can’t tolerate statins. 

Two more therapies should also be part of your treatment if you have CHD. They are: A daily aspirin of 75 to 162 milligrams. If you can’t tolerate aspirin, your doctor can prescribe clopidogrel and an annual flu shot. If you have angina, besides taking beta blockers, you should: Use nitroglycerin for immediate relief and take a calcium channel blocker or use a long-acting nitrate if beta blockers are not effective or have adverse effects. What does not work if you have CHD. 

New heart disease guidelines recommend against using some strategies strictly to reduce cardiovascular risk (although they may be beneficial for other conditions). These include: Estrogen therapy for postmenopausal women; Antioxidant supplements containing vitamins C and E and beta-carotene; B6, B12 and folate supplements. Others are: Chelation therapy, which uses a chemical to remove excess heavy metals, such as iron, lead and mercury, from your blood; garlic, coenzyme Q10, selenium and chromium supplements.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on July 11, 2015.

Common External Tariff will cripple Nigeria pharma industry –PMG

• ‘Impose 20 % Import Adjustment Tax, 0% raw materials imports to save us’

The ailing Nigerian health sector may be heading for another brouhaha if the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)) and the Nigerian government do not jettison the recently adopted Common External Tariff (CET), the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Group, an affiliate of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (PMG-MAN) has warned.

In view of this, the PMG-MAN weekend raised an alarm over what it perceived as the dangerous implications of CET among other government policies, which it also said has dire consequences for the industry, national security and access to essential medicine.

Fidson Healthcare Plc, Fidelis Ayebae, Managing Director/CEO; Sam Pharm Ltd, Ashwin Sagir; Former Managing Director, NEIMETH Pharm Plc, Sam Ohuabunwa; Chairman, Pharmaceutical Manufacturers group (PMG) Manufacturer Association of Nigeria (MAN) and MD, SKG Pharm, Okey Akpa and Vice President, PMG-MAN as well as MD, NEIMETH, Emmanuel Okunno, during PMG-MAN Press conference held in Lagos, recently.

Specifically, PMG-MAN has warned that the combination of the Common External Tariff (CET) and a wholesale implementation of the National Drug Distribution Guidelines (NDDG) will lead to over a million job cuts in the Nigerian pharmaceutical industry.

Insisting that the policies are potential threat to the pharmaceutical industry that is already gasping for breath, the chairman of the group, Okey Akpan, explained that the CET was adopted as a policy in the West African region at the Heads of States Summit in October 2013, in Dakar, Senegal. This policy places zero tariff on finished imported medicine while essential raw and packaging materials required by the industry for local medicine production attracts five per cent to 20 per cent.

Essential medicines are critical to healthcare delivery in any country, and Nigeria is no exception. With a population above 160 million people growing at an average rate of three per cent, a robust and efficient healthcare delivery system is essential for the country.

A vibrant local pharmaceutical manufacturing industry is both critical to the nation’s march towards self-sufficiency in essential medicine needs, providing gainful employment and boosting the economy.
However, Akpa who was briefing journalists, at Ikeja, Lagos, lamented that the implementation of the CET policy reverses the gains made towards the nation’s self-sufficiency in essential medicine and opens all doors for total importation of finished medicine.

The PMG-MAN boss said: “It is regrettable that the damaging consequences of the policy on the local pharmaceutical manufacturing sector were not considered despite our desperate attempts to draw attention to this. “This policy undoubtedly, spells doom for the local industry as imported medicines will become far cheaper than locally produced ones. This situation is inimical to the survival of the local   pharmaceutical manufacturing sector, and there is a need for urgent review,” he added.

The laudable achievement of having four World Health Organisation (WHO) certified manufacturing companies, was earned through the initiative of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and individual investment efforts of individual involved. These companies are May&Baker, Evans, CHI and Swipha.

The PMG-MAN Chairman said that there are ten other pharmaceutical companies on the line for same WHO pre-qualification who have invested heavily towards this. The industry has invested an estimated 100 billion naira in various facility upgrades over the last five years, he added, regretting: “These investments have not brought about the desired benefits largely due to neglect by successive governments and lack of patronage.”

He said that the CET if implemented as it is will have far-reaching implications on the industry and the country such as unemployment, idle capacity and loss of investment, increase in fake and sub-standard products and skills stagnation. Others are considerable depletion of scarce foreign exchange due to continued dependence on imports and no contribution to GDP growth.

The industry currently employs directly and indirectly over one million persons. “A significant number of these stand the risk of losing their jobs if the local manufacturing sector is unable to sustain this current physical situation following the adoption of the CET. The lack of demand for locally manufactured medicines as a result of cheap imports will lead to idle capacities and negatively impact previous investment in the sector worth over N300 billion naira. A weak local manufacturing sector will inevitably lead to an influx of cheap imported medicines of doubtful quality,” PMG-MAN warned.

The group therefore recommended that an Import Adjustment Tax of 20 per cent on imported finished pharmaceutical products should be imposed immediately as applied to other sectors where Nigeria has capacity as allowed by CET. In addition, under the National list within the CET, input into pharmaceutical manufacturing (raw materials, excipients and packaging) should be allowed to be imported at zero per cent by bonfire pharmaceutical manufacturers.

Contributing, former President and Chief Executive Officer, Niemeth Pharmaceuticals Plc, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, warned that implementation of CET as it is will work against government’s present policy of industrialisation. He said it does not make sense to say people should not pay tariffs on finished imported products and ask local producers to pay tariffs on raw materials.

On Mega Drug Distribution Centre (MDDC), Ohuabunwa who was also former Chairman of Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG), said that the coming in of MDDC should not hinder wholesalers from having access to PMG-MAN members and retailers.

On his part, Chairman and Managing Director, Fidson Health care Plc, Dr Fidelis
Ayabae, advised that Nigeria should follow the current world trend of diversification and inclusiveness rather than reversing to monopoly which will give rise to cartels and syndicates. He therefore condemned a situation where the MDDC will hijack the entire distribution network.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on July 9, 2015.

Centre provides services for 737 serially assaulted persons

As the Mirabel Centre, a sexual assault referral centre clocks two years, the centre said it has provided free services to 737 clients who were sexually assaulted, the youngest being 10 months old and the oldest 70 years old.

At a media conference on the operations of the centre during the two years, Itoro Eze-Anaba, managing partner, Partnership for Justice, disclosed that this number is made up of 720 female clients and 17 male clients.

Briefing the press in Lagos last week, Eze-Anaba also said 16 of the male clients are minors while one is an adult.

On the location of the sexual violence of the 727 clients, she said, “all of them are living in Lagos and neighbouring Ogun States, though it is not all the cases that happened in Lagos and neighbouring Ogun State. For some of them, the cases happened when they were abroad. One of the clients was living in Benin, Edo State when she was sexually assaulted.

L-R:RosemaryAkaette Board member, Mirabel Centre; Mrs. Bernice Adesope, Assistant Director Nursing Services, Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH); ItoroEzeAnaba, Managing Partner, Partnership for Justice; Valentina Peter Nkwo, Counsellor Mirabel Centre and Queen Ubah, Miss Centenary and Ambassador Mirabel Centre during the press conference on the second anniversary of the Mirabel Centre, recently.
The managing partner of Partnership for Justice said one of the biggest challenges in seeking justice for the survivors of rape and sexual violence is the absence of reliable and verifiable data and lack of support services. “This disturbing situation has led to many survivors not seeking help nor reporting to the police,” she added.

According to her, the increase in reported cases of sexual violence, especially child sexual abuse has become a topic for national discourse. “This malaise is generally acknowledged by government officials and human rights advocates to be endemic. Perpetrators of sexual violence act with impunity due to corruption and/or incompetency in investigation and prosecution of such cases.”

In a bid to fill this gap and provide a safe and comfortable place for survivors of rape and sexual assault to receive needed professional care, Partnership for Justice (PJ), with funding from Justice for All Programme of the Department of International Development (DFID) of the British Council, established the first sexual assault referral centre in Nigeria. Known as the Mirabel Centre, it opened its doors to the public in July 2013.

She lamented that the major challenge facing the Mirabel Centre is that of funding. “Without financial support the Mirabel Centre will not be able to continue providing services to these vulnerable ones in the community.
“We have opened discussions with the Lagos State government on the need to support the Centre. This does not preclude corporate organisations and individuals from supporting the Centre and joining the campaign to protect children, women, boys and girls from rape and sexual assault.

“Many of these clients are referred to the Centre by the police (Family Support Unit FSU and non FSU), the hospital, CSOs, government agencies and some just walk into the Centre for treatment.”

She said the Mirabel Centre has also visited over 40 schools in Lagos state with a view to equipping teachers and students with the skills to become change agents in the community. “This has created more awareness about rape and sexual assault and has encouraged more victims to speak out and seek help,” she added.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on July 9, 2015.

PTSD puts women at risk of heart attack, stroke

New research has shown that the effects of Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) goes beyond the mind and put women’s hearts and brains at risk.

An online report on Tuesday said: “Post-traumatic stress disorder wreaks havoc on a person’s ability to deal with small disturbances, such as a loud noise or an upsetting story in the news, and it can keep them from getting good sleep. In addition to these problems, and perhaps because of them, PTSD might also increase women’s risk of heart attack and stroke, according to new research.”

Researchers looked at nearly 55,000 women in the Nurses’ Health Study II, a long-term study of young women that began in 1989. In 2008, the researchers asked the women to fill out surveys about traumatic events they had experienced in the last 20 years, including physical assault or a natural disaster as well as whether they had PTSD symptoms such as recurring thoughts about the event.

The researchers found that women who were exposed to a trauma and had at least four PTSD symptoms were 60 per cent more likely to have a heart attack or stroke than women who reported having no trauma.
“This study raises awareness that the effects of PTSD do not just stop in the head and that they have more holistic consequences for health,” said Jennifer A. Sumner, a clinical psychologist at the Columbia University, Mailman School of Public Health.

Sumner is lead author of the study, which was published Monday in Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association. “Our hope is that providers and patients (with PTSD) can be aware of this link and monitor cardiovascular health and try to engage in prevention efforts,” Sumner said.

Previous research has reported links between PTSD and heart attacks as well as other types of heart disease, primarily in male war veterans. Sumner and her colleagues were interested in studying the connection in women, who are at higher risk of PTSD. (Ten per cent of women have PTSD in their lifetimes compared with five per cent of men.)

The current study found that even women who experienced a trauma, but did not report having any PTSD symptoms, were at 45 per cent higher risk of heart attack and stroke than their trauma-free peers. People who experienced trauma could have ramped up stress levels, such as higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which has been associated with heart attack risk, without being aware of it, Sumner said.

However, women who were exposed to trauma and reported having only between one and three PTSD symptoms did not have an increase in heart attack or stroke risk, in contrast to women who experienced trauma and had either no PTSD symptoms, or at least four.

It might be too early to get a full picture of the heart attack and stroke risk in this study because the women, now between 44 and 62, are largely still too young to have these diseases, Sumner said. The researchers are following the women, and will see if those who reported having between one and three PTSD symptoms end up being at increased risk as well.

Part of the reasons women in this study was at greater risk of heart disease appeared to be their lifestyles. The researchers found that women who lived through a traumatic event, and had either zero or four or more PTSD symptoms, were more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviours, such as smoking and sedentary lifestyles.

Although there have been other studies looking at PTSD and heart disease risk, “this (study) is big because it is a very large sample, and if you have got thousands of people, it really drives the point home,” said Dr. Una McCann, professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
McCann added: “But even on its own, PTSD can probably increase the risk.”

People with PTSD are in a constant state of hyper-awareness of their environment, which drives up their heart rates, McCann said. “Constantly having your heart on overdrive, it is not hard to figure out why that might cause heart attack and stroke,” McCann said.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on July 4, 2015.

Food that trigger blood pressure

Continued from last week

Red Meat
A healthy eating plan should have only a small amount, if any, of saturated or trans-fats. Fatty foods are bad for both the heart and blood vessels. An 18 oz. ribeye at LongHorn Steakhouse without any sauce has about 1140 calories, 79 grams of fat and 1,500 mg of sodium.

Whole Milk
Hardly will anyone believe that milk will be in this list. Milk is a great source of calcium, but high-fat dairy sources, like whole milk, provides you with more fat than you need. One cup serving of whole milk has about eight grams of fat, five grams of which are saturated. Saturated fats are worse for you than other types and has been linked to heart diseases. Try using two per cent milk or, even better, one per cent or skim.

Frozen Pot Pies
A single serving of pot pie equals about 1,400 mg of sodium in addition to about 35 grams of fat. That is more than 50 per cent of your daily recommended intake for both, and in one serving. The fat also includes transfat, which needs to be eliminated from your diet completely, and an unhealthy dose of saturated fat. Clear your freezer and say ‘no’ to pre-packaged frozen meals.

Everybody loves Happy Hour, but alcohol consumption actively causes blood pressure to elevate. It also damages the walls of the blood vessels while simultaneously increasing the risk of further complications, making it a horrible choice for adults with high blood pressure. Do not do it. Beer bellies are not cute.

Noodles, cup noodles or any another pre-packaged noodle meal is popular among students and lazy adults but highly damaging to your body. One package of generic ramen noodles contains 14 grams of fat and a whopping 1,580 mg of sodium. The tiny flavour packet that comes with it is the major culprit, containing most of the sodium.

The crunchy, low-calorie snack is a great complement to your sandwich order except for the fact that it is loaded with sodium. Three medium pickles, about 3.75 inches long, can have about 2,355 mg of sodium, more than the recommended sodium limit of 2,300 mg for an entire day.

Canned Chicken Noodle Soup
The perfect food for those cold rainy days is far from perfect for people with high blood pressure. On the average, a cup of canned chicken noodle soup contains as much as 760 mg of sodium.
Eat an entire can, which makes about two and a half servings, will have you gulping down 1,800 mg of sodium.

To be quite frank, bacon is mostly fat. Three slices have 4.5 grams of fat and about 270 mg of sodium, and most people eat more than that at breakfast or in those B.L.T. sandwiches. It is tough being a meat lover these days, is it not? Avoid these foods for a healthier heart?

This story was published in Newswatch Times on July 4, 2015.

We’ve dearth of locally manufactured drugs – Obi

Sir Nnamdi Obi is a Pharmacist and the Managing Director and CEO Embassy Pharmaceutical and Chemicals Ltd. Obi who is also President, Association of Pharmaceutical Importers in Nigeria during an interview with CHIOMA UMEHA (HEALTH EDITOR) bares his mind on a number of issues in the health sector.

Four Nigeria drug companies have the World Health Organisation (WHO) Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) certification. What does it mean for Nigeria?
What it means is that local pharmaceutical concerns are really coming up strongly and the certification will enable them bid for global businesses, global tenders, because they received such accreditation. There are only a few of them in Nigeria. Thanks to the DG of NAFDAC, Dr. Paul Orhii, has contributed immensely in making the Nigerian Pharmaceutical industry attain such an enviable feat. Every other company is also gearing up to attain such a certification. Therefore, it will continue to get better for the Nigerian Pharmaceutical Industry.

What are the problems facing the local drugs manufacturers in Nigeria?
I am not a local manufacturer. However, the problems that do bedevil local drug manufacturers are very similar to problems that confront other businesses in Nigeria. For instance, in my office, we hardly have light from the National Grid. And your guess is as good as mine as to the amount that will be expended by the local manufacturing concerns in generating energy to power the various machinery in their respective establishments. That, no doubt, will make their products not to be highly competitive and would make it difficult to compete globally in terms of pricing.

For me, any local manufacturer that is able to employ a sizeable number of Nigerians should be given a national award, more than what we are having presently wherein politicians contribute very little to our nation. Politicians are those who can afford to pay for these honours and are given the honours recklessly. But, this award ought to have been given to local manufacturers who employ a sizeable number of Nigerians. This is also a way to encourage people to manufacture locally.

I haven’t gone into manufacturing because of the constraints and this is why I expect that those who have been able to take the bull by the horn, the local manufacturers, should be given a national award. It is imperative that the government provides an enabling environment for local manufacturing to thrive; then we can employ a sizeable number of the teeming population of our youths who are unemployed. As long as the youths are restless, we would continue to be restless.

Nigeria is said to be responsible for producing 60 per cent of the drugs used by the ECOWAS countries. What’s your take on this?
I don’t agree with such statistics. What do we produce? If a considerable percentage of what we consume locally are imported, how can we be servicing 60 per cent of the needs of ECOWAS countries. We are fond of brandishing figures without having accurate statistics to back up such claims. Our population figure varies from one person to another and if we ask where they got their statistics from, none can produce the information.

Nigeria cannot be supplying 60 per cent of the pharmaceutical needs of ECOWAS countries when we have dearth of pharmaceutical products manufactured locally by Nigerian companies used in Nigeria. How come we have this and yet we are servicing 60 per cent of the needs of ECOWAS countries? How can we marry such contradictions? I cannot agree with such a contradiction.

No manufacturing concern in Nigeria manufactures anti-retroviral drugs; no company in Nigeria manufactures anti-cancer drugs.

So, what do we manufacture?
Blood tonics, antiemetic, paracetamol, paracetamol syrups, capsules. Basically, the therapeutic classes Nigerians manufacture drugs for are very limited. There are various classes of therapeutic products: Analgesic and anti-pyretic, blood tonics, antibiotics. 95 per cent of antibiotics consumed in this country are not manufactured here. So, we cannot claim to supply 60 per cent of ECOWAS needs.

The government is not helping matters. The tariffs on local manufacturers are more than the importers. I am an importer but, I am never beclouded by my parochial interest to say because I am going to pay less duty, so be it; let’s get it on. Far from it! We should encourage local manufacturers because this is our country. With such tariffs, the government is killing the manufacturing concerns.

The Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Group of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (PMG-MAN) that claims that the future looks bleak in the quest for Nigeria to become self-sufficient in terms of drug production as N1.5 billion is lost annually on the importation of active pharmaceutical raw materials, ingredients (APIs) which have direct effect on diagnosis and treatment and prevention of diseases. Where do we go from here?
As far as I am concerned, Nigeria is a big for nothing nation. We are member of OPEC and yet we do not have fuel available for sale. Our refineries are not working. If the refineries were working, some of these APIs would have been derived from our petrochemicals. The manufacturer who needs these chemicals will source it locally, therefore delivery time is shorter. 99 per cent of these raw materials are now imported from India and China. China organises Trade Fairs two to three times a year; wherein people from all parts of the world gather.

This is why China has excessive foreign reserve. There is an aggressive marketing of Chinese products and they offer it to the entire world at a very competitive rate. The future looks so bleak in the pharmaceutical sector; just as the future looks so bleak in the petroleum sector. In all sectors of our economy, I do not in any way have any shred of optimism. Unless, and only if, there is going to be a redirection by the political leaders.

If you have a nation where the concurrent expenditure is much more than the capital expenditure, how are you going to survive?
Most Governors cannot afford to pay the salaries of their workers. They are begging the federal government to help them out. We are operating a very false federalism that makes a governor sit without thinking of ways to increase his internally generated revenue that would help to stimulate the economy of the State. We are not operating an economy that gives room for people to be innovative and that is the problem.

Therefore, what is happening in the political sphere is also happening in all strata of our activities. If Nigeria as a nation were to be a business outfit, it should command a business outfit that can compete internationally in any sphere of business because of our endowment in various natural resources that could be harnessed to have a very vibrant business outfit; but we are not.

Hence, I laugh when we pride ourselves as the biggest African nation. Elephant is the biggest animal but definitely not the most intelligent and that is what I liken Nigeria to. The future of the pharmaceutical sector is bright as long as we have a redirection.

Can you elaborate on the issue of the dearth of Intellectual Patent Protection?
These things fall in sequence. Once you don’t get it right in A, you cannot get it right in Z. Just like we see an infringement in intellectual property; you don’t expect the victim to, in the future, exercise some degree of energy in carrying out his own inspection; this is because the likelihood of it going down the drain are most obvious. The same happens in all aspects of life. There is so much easy money in this country that has not made many of us put on our thinking cap which is unfortunate.

Does an average Nigerian enjoy adequate health care?
Most Nigerians are not enjoying proper healthcare because of some factors. One of which is ignorance; the reason the Churches are thriving. For instance, somebody has cancer and is taken to Church for instance for miracle; it doesn’t work that way. Ignorance is a disease in this environment for which some of these Churches capitalize on and are smiling to the banks. While their members cry to their graves.

We do not yet have the insurance policy that has been put in place working because of fraudulent practices. Some establishments, because of their selfish interest, do not avail their workers such programmes.
We have a cocktail of confusion in the system that has really permeated the entire system. Most of these people who operate Health Management (HMOs) are not even honest with themselves; they are ripping Nigerians off. And this is because what we have in this environment is ‘make as much money as you have, you are going to be respected by the society’, morals have been thrown overboard. It is now the end that justifies the means. I tell you today that if an armed robber makes a good amount of money and goes to one of the Churches around and donates it to them, he is going to be made to stay on the front pew. Morals have been thrown to the dustbin.

As we speak, no company in Nigeria manufactures any anti- hypertensive drug or anti-diabetic drug. But, we have a lot of Nigerians who die from these conditions on a daily basis and these drugs are being imported.
So, the government has an enormous responsibility of putting the right policy in place for things to fall in place and what it takes is for those who know what it means to be there and not those who are there to make money for themselves.

I’m looking forward to having a National Assembly with Senators who aren’t paid much, so that there wouldn’t be any attraction to serve there. It will be for only those who have a genuine desire to serve. Unlike when they’d be paid millions of naira for wardrobe allowance and millions of naira for other expenses, the propensity to kill in other to get there will be high. This is possible if we have the right leadership. The President started off on a very good note by saying he belongs to all Nigerians and no person in particular. I applaud him for that; I hope he walks the talk.

How can a nation with this myriad of problems achieve a healthy nation?
If we are all looking forward to having a healthy nation, we all need to lend a hand into the baking of that cake called ‘a healthy nation.’ Buhari alone cannot stop corruption. If an officer request for something before letting someone off the hook, is Buhari going to be there? If, as a pharmacist, I do not attend to you unless you grease my palm, is Buhari going to be there? There must have to be a conscious effort of a new Nigeria by every one of us and then, we can move forward. You cannot go to the UK or China and bribe a policeman so that you can have your way. When we have several ugly practices as the norm, then, there is a problem.

What about the issue of incessant strike and other controversial issues in the health sector? There seems to be a sought of silence about it.
The health sector is bedeviled with strikes here and there, the medical doctors do not want any other person to be called a consultant, the other health workers want to be referred to as consultants. What is in the name for goodness sake? If you are an expert in your own field, then you are a consultant. Why would doctors arrogate themselves to be called consultants only?

Workers in the health sector work as a team to achieve their results. No matter the best of doctors you might have in the world, if you don’t have the input of a diagnostic eye, you are not going to achieve any result. And who is going to provide you with the best result? The medical scientist! The medical scientist provides the best of diagnosis, a doctor cannot fashion out the appropriate treatment. If the doctor and the medical scientist cannot have the right quality drug; it is all zero. It cannot work.

What I am saying, in essence, is that this bickering must have to stop. In the health sector, the doctor is as important as the lab scientist, the lab scientist is as important as a pharmacist and the pharmacist is as important as the doctor. So, we have to work as a team.

It is this discontentment that call for the strikes which is totally not necessary. I hope and pray that a time will come when we will all do things aright in this country.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on July 2, 2015.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Nordica Fertility Centre fêtes family to special tour of Ghana

As part of its philosophy of completing families and to mark the 12th anniversary, Nordica Fertility Centre, one of the leading assisted conception Centre in the country, recently provided its clients unique opportunity to bond with their completed families through what it described as the ‘Babies Picture Competition.’

The competition was hosted on Facebook and opened to all families who submitted pictures of their babies between the ages of zero and two years. The baby with the highest number of votes (Likes) emerged winner of the competition. To get all and sundry interested and involved in the competition, it was widely promoted using social media sponsored stories and syndicated across blogs other online channels.

The competition which started from first week of April to April 29, with over 100 entries from different families across Nigeria, saw baby Barry Joel Adefisuka winning the overall prize. In fulfillment of Nordica’s plan for the winning family, the Nordica team took the Adefusika on a three-day all expenses paid trip to Accra, Ghana.

The family of Adefisuka who won the overall prize has just returned to the country with a lot of exciting experiences, according to a statement weekend, which was signed by Oluwole Obasanya, Business Development Manager, Nordica Fertility Centre.

The Adefusika family visited the Akuapim rane, the botanical gardens and markets, a cocoa farm including a bead workshop factory in the city of Accra on the first day of their visit, the statement said.

It added: “They proceeded to the National Museum of Ghana showcasing the rich culture of the coastal city. To experience the African open market lifestyle the Ghanaian way, the family visited the sprawling Makola Market Accra to search for fabrics and negotiate with women traders in the market.”

It also said that the family went to the Accra Mall obtained quotes from a number of shops to examine for quality and quantity available. To experience African leadership heritage, they went to see the W.E.B. Du Bois Centre, known as the father of pan-Africanism movement because of his tremendous contribution to the struggle of African independence. Similarly, the Kwame Nkrumah Museum, the Independence Square which hosts national events was visited by the family.

The final day of the tour took them to Aburi Craft and Gardens. Teteh Quarshie led them to visit the Aburi Botanical Gardens, Cocoa a cool retreat from the city, Ghana’s most beautiful garden that offers Accra’s rich collections of tropical flora which attracts many birds and butterflies. Before departing Accra, the family went around the city socialising with locals and fellow tourists. The great experience offered the Adefusika family is what they will continue to relish for a long time to come, the statement said.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on July 2, 2015.

Promasidor calls for support for people living with disabilities

Over the past two decades, there has been increased concern on the plight of people living with disabilities and the need to foster social and developmental inclusion in the society. This is even as experts have continued to preach about inclusive society to benefit people living with disabilities, in line with the United Nations (UN) General Assembly resolutions 63/150 and 65/186.

The United Nations General Assembly resolutions 63/150 and 65/186, calls upon States to ”…ensur[e] accessibility and reasonable accommodation to enable persons with disabilities to realize their right to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life, as well as to be agents and beneficiaries of development.”

There has been five United Nations world conferences held in the 1990s to emphasize the need for a ‘society for all,’ advocating the participation of all citizens, including persons with disabilities, in every sphere of society.
These meetings were aimed to promote greater awareness of accessibility and ICT accessibility in particular; promote policy and practices that facilitate the social inclusion and advancement of persons with disabilities in development through ICT accessibility, including in emergencies and natural disasters; and to identify good practices and innovative approaches to advance ICT accessibility as well as promote traditional human resources intensive solutions such as sign language and subtitling as means to further inclusive development for all.

Therefore, there has been increased appreciation across the world, Nigeria inclusive that those with disabilities have abilities and that PLWDs are part and parcel of the society.
These facts played out during the hosting of the first International Conference on Disabilities, held at the Civic Centre in Lagos, last week, as experts intensified calls for the National Assembly (NASS) to speedily work to pass the Disability Bill.

Promasidor Nigeria limited added its voice to the call for an inclusive society to benefit people living with disabilities. The International Conference on disabilities was a three-day affair.
Speaking to the media during the gala night on Wednesday, Manager Corporate Communications, Promasidor Nigeria Limited, Ms Ebi Akpeti said disabled people have not always been encouraged to see themselves as having a valuable role in society and it was time that society created a system that include people that are disabled. She said Promasidor Nigeria had always had a passion for people with disability specifically noting that the company had over the years supported such causes such as the parasoccer tournament, an annual sporting event for the disabled in Nigeria.

The conference with theme Improving access and building capacity with special focus on health, education, social welfare & employment was organized by The International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities to bring to the forefront some of the challenges people with disability in Nigeria face such as inadequate health care, negative attitude of teachers, and discriminations against workers with disabilities and also to provide a better understanding to members of the public on issues and programmes relating to people with special needs.

First of its kind in Africa, the conference brought together policy makers , decision maker and stakeholders to infuse private sector experience to support people with disability, as well as foster endearing relationships with the business community through dissemination of information and awareness interventions.
Also, speaking during the conference, Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State and his Nasarawa counterpart, Alhaji Umaru Al-makura, urged the National Assembly (NASS) to speedily work to pass the Disability Bill.

The conference included several side shows such as art exhibitions, business breakfast to a celebrity red carpet studded gala night.

Other sponsors include Union Bank, Sahara Group, MTN Foundation, Dangote, First Bank and Wakanow.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on July 2, 2015.

NAFDAC seals warehouse, unhygienic premises, confiscates unregistered products

The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has uncovered and sealed a warehouse belonging to H&H Integrated Nigeria Limited following illegal importation and housing of 49 unregistered food products and non-adherence to good hygienic practices in Lagos.

Newswatch Times gathered that the large warehouse located at N0. 30 Iman Dauda Street, Eric Moore, Lagos, was sealed following a tip-off and intelligence report which revealed that the company was involved in importation and storage of illegal food products, particularly snacks commonly consumed by children.
The company was also accused of not adhering to good hygienic practices as most of the products were stored in an unhygienic environment. And out of its 50 different brands of products, one was registered.

Some of the 49 unregistered products which are largely biscuits products for children include; Mr. Magic Soft Candy, Cracker soda biscuit, milk chocolate wafer roll, non-dairy creamer, H&H fruit Juice, Coklat pasta, sprite candy, Yummy H&H, chewing gum and Power milk cookies. Others are Henna Tatton bubble gum, twins crisp roll, non diary tea creamer, musical bracelet candy, stick candy milky, mix fruits flavour chewing gum, champion chocolate, Big band, Bufferfly choco, 123 H&H, Whistle milk candy strawberry/choco, mini choco bean, spray candy and Centic filled crispy roll.

Director-General, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Dr. Paul Orhii, flanked by Director, Veterinary Medicine and Allied Product, Dr. Buka Ali Usman and National President, poultry Association of Nigeria, Dr. Ayoola Oduntan at a news briefing on the consumption of unwholesome smuggled poultry products at the NAFDAC office in Isolo, Lagos.
Addressing journalist shortly after the closure of the warehouse in Lagos, NAFDAC’s Chief Regulatory Officer, Investigation and Enforcement, Pharmacist Babatunji Omoyeni, confirmed that the warehouse was storing products in an unkempt manner, adding that estimated 1.5 million cartoons of various unregistered products running into millions of naira were uncovered.
Omoyeni, who said H&H Integrated Company, was into importation, distribution and sales of biscuit products, said NAFDAC has already arrested the managing director of the company, and different samples of the 49 unregistered products taken for laboratory analysis.

According to him, the company has no form of warehousing system. “The place is so disorganised; we cannot even access the products to see whether rats and some other rodents are affecting them. No one can tell because it is not well arranged.”
Omoyeni, who expressed worry over the implications of exposure to poisonous rodents, said the arrangement in the warehouse creates room for revalidation of expiry and manufacturing dates of the products by the company.

“NAFDAC cannot guarantee the quality of these products, not only because they are not registered by the agency, but due to the poor storage system. Nigerians should be aware of what they buy from the markets for their children because when the children are affected, the whole country is involved.”
He further disclosed that the agency would begin investigations into the products, adding that, NAFDAC would not hesitate to take legal actions if it becomes necessary.

Noting that the agency has been carrying out enforcement activities nationwide in the last three weeks, he said: “Appropriate sanctions would be melted out on those found wanting. We are taking the managing director that is the head of the team here now. Nigerians should stop buying products that are not registered by NAFDAC because we cannot guarantee their safety. If a product is not registered, that means it is not safe for consumption.

Warning other companies to desist from such illegal acts, he queried how a company would register only one product, and brings in more 49 unregistered products under the guise of registering a product.
“One out of 50 products was registered; when you register one and you are now bringing in additional 49, that shows that they are not paying taxes, and Nigerian government does not have money, so companies have to pay so that the country can function well.”

Others unregistered products uncovered include; are choco stick, Nissile green bubble gum, Angry birds bubble gum, star tattoo bubble gum, lawane waifer, H&H spray candy, Power chocolate cookies, exit pepper mint, lush choco filled, choco pop cream, can bubble gum, mini choco bean marlborokent, Dat milk chocolate, cola tablet candy, A-K 47 gum candy, sweet girl chewy candy, musical bracelet candy and fun o. Power chocolate cookies among others.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on June 27, 2015.

Food that trigger blood pressure

Here is an alarming statistic: In Nigeria, about 22 per cent of the population are affected by high blood pressure (HBP) and it is called a silent killer, because it doesn’t show signs or symptoms till it becomes too late. Nigerians living with high blood pressure is estimated at about 56 million.

One out of every three, or 77.9 million, adults in the U.S. have high blood pressure, according to a report by the American Heart Association – and it is only getting worse.

By 2030, it is projected that 41.4 per cent of U.S. adults would have high blood pressure.

Why is this so serious?
Nearly 28 per cent of Americans do not even know they have the disease. It’s called the “silent killer” because high blood pressure or hypertension is a cardiovascular disease that is very difficult to detect. The symptoms and signs are subtle.
As a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, hypertension is the primary cause of death in Americans. It is one of the most preventable conditions — but if left uncontrolled it can increase your risk of life-threatening health problems like a heart attack or a stroke.

What is high blood pressure?
Blood pressure measures the force of the blood pushing against the walls of your arteries. Your blood pressure rises with each heartbeat and falls when your heart relaxes between beats.
While the number can fluctuate from minute to minute with changes in posture, exercise, stress or food, it should normally be less than 120/80 mmHg. Any higher, and you could be diagnosed with high blood pressure by your doctor. (Hg is the pressure that one millimetre (mm) of mercury (Hg) exerts.)
The good news: Most people can bring down their blood pressure naturally by adjusting their diet. Food matters.

Here are foods to avoid if you have high blood pressure or just want to minimize your chances of getting high blood pressure, using data compiled from WedMD, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The donuts you love are indeed one of the foods to avoid if you have high blood pressure or just want to be a healthy person. The ring-shaped fried dough snack is worse than many other snacks in the market. Being fried, it contains lots of saturated and trans fats – more trans fat than peanut butter, chocolate bars or even chips. For all of these reasons and more, donuts need to be avoided.

Red Meat
A healthy eating plan should have only a small amount, if any, of saturated or trans-fats. Fatty foods are bad for both the heart and blood vessels. An 18 oz. ribeye at LongHorn Steakhouse without any sauce has about 1140 calories, 79 grams of fat and 1,500 mg of sodium.

Whole Milk
Hardly will anyone believe that milk will be in this list. Milk is a great source of calcium, but high-fat dairy sources, like whole milk, provides you more fat than you need. One cup serving of whole milk has about eight grams of fat, five grams of which are saturated. Saturated fats are worse for you than other types and has been linked to heart disease. Try using two per cent milk or, even better, one per cent or skim.


This story was published in Newswatch Times on June 27, 2015.

Govt should pass disability friendly bill –Gbadebo

Cerebral Palsy (CP) is a silent affliction in some homes in Nigeria.  Many families of children with CP primarily take steps to shield the disability and remain in silence. This is one of the reasons Mrs. Alaba Gbadebo,a mother of a nineteen-year-old with CP co-founded a non-governmental organisation known as Benola, a cerebral palsy initiative with her husband. During this year’s business luncheon with health editors, the lecturer turned to CP advocate spoke to CHIOMA UMEHA (HEALTH EDITOR)  about the condition, Benola’s advocacy initiatives, among other things.

Mrs Alaba-Gbadebo
You are a co-founder of Benola, a cerebral Palsy initiative. What is cerebral palsy?
Cerebral palsy is actually brain damage in mostly children during or after delivery. This damage affects a child’s ability to control its muscles. Most times not all the brain is damaged. If a child with cerebral palsy can talk, then that part of the brain is not damaged. But you might notice something about the posture and movement. The brain cannot tell the hand to move when it is supposed to move because that part of the brain that does so has been damaged. A lot of children with cerebral palsy are highly intelligent. Sometimes, the condition does not affect the intelligence quotient of the child, but the movement and posture. A lot of them are stiff and floppy. Most of them are on the wheel chair because they cannot walk.

Does this suggest that cerebral palsy affects children differently?
Yes. There are different forms of cerebral palsy. It is possible to say no case is all together the same. Cerebral palsy may affect one side of the brain; it might affect the two sides of the brain. The function of that part of the brain is impaired. That is why people living with cerebral palsy have different deformities, some cannot walk, hear or speak, while for others it is coordination in movement and reasoning. Some children with cerebral palsy are able to go to talk, walk and even study, but some can’t do any of these. My son has total cerebral palsy. He can’t walk, talk, and, of course, go to school. He is always in a wheelchair. None of the limbs is working. If you tell my son to point to his nose, he will point to his nose to show you he knows what you said, but it will take him two minutes to get his finger to get to his nose. We then realised that the intelligent part of his brain is working. So, cerebral palsy can be typified based on the area of brain damaged. There are severe cases and mild cases of cerebral palsy. We have seen master and Ph.D. holders with cerebral palsy.

A lot of people hide this kind of disability. Why did you break the silence with your son’s case?
Maybe it is the kind of person I am. If you love me, you have to love my boy. I don’t believe in hiding anything. I have never hidden by son from day one. Once you meet me the next three minutes you will hear about Olaoluwa. I will tell you about him so that you are not shocked when you see him. I don’t hide him. That is why it was easy for us, two years ago, to come out. Of course, we realised that you have to encourage people. And in this part of the world, the stigma is so bad. Some people kill their children; some lock them in rooms. Meanwhile, these children are celebrities abroad. If a child has a disability abroad, the government takes care of the child.

You are paid as a primary care provider who takes care of that child for the government. Their health care services are free. You have disability friendly hotels, parks, banks, airports, schools, Churches etc. The government makes sure that public places are disability friendly. They make sure that people in wheelchairs are able to access facilities. We want to create such awareness in Nigeria. So that the Nigerian government through the National Assembly can pass a law not to disenfranchise people with disability; that every building that will be built in Nigeria be disability friendly. This is part of our advocacy. We are just starting. It has been two years and we know we will get there.

We believe that there will be a time in Nigeria’s history when a bill will be passed ensuring that every single structure built in Nigeria will be disability friendly. It will be done so that disabled people can go to Church. Right now, they cannot go anywhere. The buses are not built to put wheelchairs. In advanced countries, buses have rams that enable people in wheelchairs to enter buses. But here they can’t go anywhere. We don’t even have wheelchairs to give them in the first place. So, a lot of things have to be done for people with disability.

How many years have you been nursing your child?
Olaoluwa is nineteen. June 14 was his nineteenth birthday. And it’s been nineteen years for me. And I wouldn’t tell you it has been easy, but because I am a Christian, I do not believe that God made a mistake of giving me a child like him. He is aware of the situation. He gives me grace. I take one day at a time. I cannot do more than that. At the end of each, we thank God and when a new day begins we pray for grace.

Basically what is Benola about?
Benola is about creating awareness about cerebral palsy. We run an advocacy centre in Lagos where we make referral services and provide medical advice on how to manage cerebral palsy. A lot of people in Nigeria do not know much about cerebral palsy. Autism and Down syndrome are now popular. Cerebral palsy has not been given any attention in Nigeria. We realised that a lot of people do not know about cerebral palsy. Yet there are many homes with children who have cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy is the most expensive disability to manage in the world today.

A child with cerebral palsy needs a lot of medical professionals to manage him or her. A child with cerebral palsy might be born deaf, blind or lame or all of them. He will need a neurologist, a psychologist, a nutritionist, an ophthalmologist, a dentist and a physiotherapist. The child with cerebral palsy has to have physio all the time even as an adult because it affects movement and posture. A lot of them cannot walk. You need to stretch them continually to release stiff areas.

What are the causes of Cerebral Palsy?
A number of things can cause brain damage. Primarily cerebral palsy is caused when oxygen does not get to the brain at the early hours of delivery. When oxygen does not get to the brain early after a child is born it can damage any part of the brain. That is why children must be made to cry immediately after delivery. Another cause of cerebral palsy is complication during delivery. It can also be caused as a reaction to a kind of medication during pregnancy. As a pregnant woman only take drugs at your doctor’s prescription. Certain drugs can damage the system of your unborn child. Also, when a child falls down at an early stage of birth it can damage the brain.

The head of a child within weeks and two months of delivery is very tender. Any contact with the hard ground can cause brain damage. Any of these things can cause cerebral palsy. Whichever is the case, it is not proper to hide this child. We want Nigerians to come out so that this disability can receives the proper attention it deserves. There are so many rich people whose children have cerebral palsy and they are hiding them abroad. We cannot hide them forever. Some of them are very intelligent. Some can be managed so that these children can have a life of their own.

What is Benola doing to help manage cerebral palsy?
Benola is taking a different approach. We are planning to have a cerebral palsy centre at strategic locations in Nigeria. We are starting from Abuja and then Lagos, Port Harcourt and Kano. We already have secured a land space to commerce the construction of Benola cerebral palsy centre in Abuja.   These centres will serve as rallying point for people whose children have cerebral palsy. People could go to these centres for advice on how to manage cerebral palsy.

We will also provide referral services for medical hospitals around the world with proven speciality on cerebral palsy. I believe we have to start somewhere. We need partners for this project. We are calling on Nigerians and corporate bodies to help heighten the awareness on cerebral palsy. We need people who will lead advocacy groups to universities and communities. We need people who will partner us with to remove the stigma on all kinds of disabilities.

Is there a cure for cerebral palsy?
There is no cure yet. We however have a system of management therapy that a child with cerebral palsy can undertake to get better. Like I said, cerebral palsy is the most expensive disability to manage. There are medications that helps with seizures and stiffness of movement.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on June 25, 2015.

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