Use COVID-19 pandemic to raise Nigeria’s health system, FG told

The Association of Public Health Physicians of Nigeria (APHPN) has urged the federal government to leverage on the opportunity created by the COVID-19 pandemic to create more resilient and transformative health systems.

It noted that COVID-19 did not only negatively impact the health of Nigerians, but exposed the already fragile and weak health systems in the country.

It further stated that there is an urgent need to ramp up efforts with regards to local capacities to produce vaccines, especially the COVID-19 vaccine, as the country can no longer rely on external sources.

Speaking during the 37th Annual General Meeting and Scientific Conference of the APHPN on Tuesday in Abuja, the Chairman of the occasion and Chief Executive Officer of APIN Public Health Initiatives, Dr Prosper Okonkwo, said: “The pandemic has exposed the true state of our health systems. Apart from impacting the health of citizens, the robust health system has been fully stretched and the ones that are fragile are on the brink of further collapse.

“However, it provides an opportunity for us to begin to build more transformative health systems that are well-positioned to face future emergencies.

“We see that routine immunization for example has been affected. Also, some maternal health indicators have been affected. You see that we are not only talking about Covid-19 alone. So this is an opportunity for us to begin to put things together.

“Particularly from governance and leadership, equity considerations must be given a right of place. We have the opportunity to build resilient systems that can stand the shock of such epidemics when they come again.

“There must be efforts at improving infrastructures like laboratories, particularly PCR laboratories, oxygen plants, and all the commodity logistics issues. In fact, we need to begin to consider vaccine production. We must consider all these even as the pandemic progresses.

“In this era of vaccine nationalism and diplomacy, Nigeria thought we had a source from India and India said they have to sort themselves out first. These are lessons we should learn in the way we do business going forward.”

In his remarks, the National Chairman of APHPN, Prof. Benjamin Uzochukwu, said: “This year’s theme – Strategies for resilience and recovery from public health emergencies – is apt given the global novel coronavirus disease 2019, COVID-19 pandemic, which is caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome virus 2 (SARS-CoV-2 and other emergencies.

“These emergencies have a significant impact on health through changes to political, environmental and other conditions which may influence determinants of health.

“Beyond their direct impact on health, emergencies also increase the population’s susceptibility to diseases and poor health through their impact on health systems. They destroy or disrupt the system, reducing its ability to respond appropriately and promote, restore or maintain health, which in turn results in an increase in morbidity and mortality.

“Therefore, it is imperative that this conference addresses the issues surrounding this theme through the various sub-themes that have been carefully selected to align with the main theme: Financing Health in public Health emergencies; Mental health: an evolving public health emergency; impact and response of private health sector to COVID-19 Pandemic; access to reproductive health and NCDs response during COVID-19 era, and innovative health technologies in Pandemic response and recovery.”

The Chairman of APHPN FCT Chapter, Dr. Dan Gadzama, added: “Notwithstanding the current challenges, this annual event gives us the vital opportunity to interact, network, engage with one another and forge pathways for deepening public health research and practice in Nigeria. It is also an avenue to increase our national and global visibility as Public Health Physicians.”

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