(By Temitope Obayendo)
Melanie J. Bird is a registered nurse in the UK and deputy head of the Department of Primary and Public Health at Anglia Ruskin University. She lectures on a variety of nurse-related courses offered by the university and supervises students undertaking both undergraduate and postgraduate dissertation modules.
Recently, the health care expert came to Nigeria and held a series of trainings aimed at upgrading the skills of the country’s health care practitioners. In this exclusive interview with Pharmanews, Ms. Bird expressed her views on the Nigeria’s public health care system and suggested strategies for improvement. Excerpts:
Please tell us about your mission in Nigeria.
With the increasing numbers of patients affected by public health-related illnesses, I became interested in the wider public health agenda. After completing a teaching qualification and further professional development courses relating to public health, I worked as a Public Health Nurse Advisor for the NHS and have since moved into teaching public health to future public health professionals from around the world.
How possible is it for Nigeria’s health indicator to mirror that of the UK?
Nigeria has made great strides over recent years to improve the healthcare provision and public health of the population. The Nigerian government is working hard to implement strategies that will result in moves towards the WHO goal of ‘Global Health’. These include improved infrastructure, increased training of healthcare workers and improved access to healthcare.
To move closer to the health indicator of the UK, Nigeria will need to keep moving forward with these strategies. The life expectancy in the UK averages 86(F) and 83(M) years – which brings a different burden to UK public health. However,the Nigerian life expectancy is much lower at 55(F) and 49(M) – althoughthis has increased slightly over the last few years. Maintaining the strategies, as stated aboveshould, see an increase in life expectancy.
Also, infant and maternal mortality is still on the rise in Nigeria. What assistance can your institution give to reduce this to the barest minimum?
Many of our MSc. public health students study MMR (Maternal Mortality Ratio) as their chosen dissertation topic. This gives them an increased knowledge base, with which to return to Nigeria and help this cause.
One of the most important aspects of reducing MMR is not just about training the healthcare professionals – it is about empowering the community to understand lifestyle risk factors, as well as educating them about medical issues. One way of doing this is through motivational interviewing.
What are the new skills and courses your institution is offering Nigerian health care practitioners?
We have a variety of skills based workshops and courses that are applicable to a wide range of healthcare services, from midwifery courses (for registered midwives), advanced nursing courses (for registered nurses) and short courses in relation to managing diabetes, hypertension, wound care management, motivational interviewing and many others.
What advice do you have for health care professionals in Nigeria?
Nigerian healthcare professionals are achieving great strides in moving the health of the population forward. I would urge more people to think about a career in healthcare and healthcare related roles. More radiographers, pharmacists, microbiologists, etc. are needed.
Traditional birth attendants are growing. However, they need further education and training, in order to adopt relevant and contemporary birthing skills with further skills in monitoring the mother and baby prior to birth, to be aware of any complications.