For the health-related components of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)to be actualised before the 2030 deadline, the federal government must demonstrate more financial commitment towards implementation of research policies, the Director General, Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) Professor Babatunde Salako, has said.
Prof. Salako who spoke during the 7th Annual Scientific Conference of the institution, held at the main auditorium, Yaba, Lagos, challenged government at all levels to walk the talk on research, saying that while it is good to formulate right policies on research, it is much better if the policies are fully implemented for the benefit of the citizenry.
The NIMR boss, who decried the inability of Nigeria to achieve all the health components of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), however expressed confidence that the health-related SDGs will be achieved, should the government show keen interest in evaluating and advancing the health system.
“Government has to be determined to fund implementation of many of the policies that have been formed,” he said. “It looks like we are good at coming up with such policies, but we have not given the financial support they require.”
Speaking on the choice of the conference theme: “Achieving Health-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Nigeria: The Role of Research and Innovation”, the NIMR boss described it as timely, considering the pivotal role of research and innovation in sustaining national development.
He noted that the overall goal of the SDGs is to eliminate poverty and improve the lives of people.
In his keynote address, Professor Oye Gureje, director, WHO Collaborating Centre for Research and Training in Mental Health, Neuroscience and Substance Abuse, University of Ibadan, spoke on the topic: “Health System Strengthening and Implementation Science as Tools for Achieving the SDGs”.
Defining health system as all organisations, people and actions that are focused on promoting, restoring or maintaining health, Prof. Gureje described the health profile of Nigeria as disappointing when compared with those of other countries.
According to him, among 191 WHO member states in 2000, the Nigerian health system ranked as follows: Fairness of financing (equity) – 180th; responsiveness – 177th; health attainment – 188th; overall health performance – 187th.
The erudite scholar posited that, to improve the situation, three approaches to strengthening the health system are essential. These include system thinking and planning; adoption of chronic care model by health systems; and striving for equity.
He also emphasised that certain impediments must be removed for there to be meaningful improvement in the nation’s health care delivery system. He listed such limitations to include chronic shortage of motivated and adequately trained staff; low budget allocation to health; high cost and irregular supply of drugs; lack of or non-functioning essential equipments; as well as poor organisation and management.