(By Adebayo Oladejo)
Women in the country have, once again, been charged to make their health a major priority, as the growth and development of the nation primarily depends on their wellbeing.
The call was made by Professor OlukemiOdukoya, dean, Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Lagos (UNILAG), while delivering her keynote address at this year’s Association of Lady Pharmacists, Lagos State Chapter Day, held at the Maternal and Child Unit of Randle General Hospital, Gbaja, Surulere, Lagos recently.
Addressing a large audience comprisingmainly pregnant women and nursing mothers, the university don spoke on the theme, “Safe Pharmaceutical Care as a Tool in National Health Development.”
According to her, focus on maternal, infant and child health has continued to be a priority for states, as they aim to improve the health of the nation and reduce healthcare costs. She said that African women,including those in Nigeria, often suffer and die from common preventable diseases, adding that a large part of their illnesses and deathsarise from the process of pregnancy and childbirth.
“The major causes of death related to pregnancy are hypertension, bleeding, infections and ruptured uterus. Illegal abortions also result in death. Antenatal delivery and postnatal services are often inaccessible, and even when available, they can be inadequate. Iron deficiency has an adverse effect on the mother and baby, while sexually transmitted diseases are common, as well as HIV/AIDS,” she disclosed.
She further revealed that“on the other hand, infertility is also a problem, leading to social isolation and psychological and physical abuse for women, while malnutrition in rural areas, rape and battery are serious health problems.”
Speaking on the need for safe use of medicines, Odukoya advised mothers that even though medicines, including vaccines, are used to treat and prevent many illnesses and can be used in conjunction with other treatments, they should however be used with care. She explained that the approval of a medicine by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) does not mean that the medicine is approved for general use, adding that specific doses are fortreatments of specific illnesses and conditions.
“There is no prescription drug or over-the-counter remedy that is without risk, even when taken according to directions;besides, some prescription and over-the-counter drugs have never been tested for safety in the elderly, infants, children, pregnant women and lactating mothers,” she revealed.
Continuing, she advised nursing mothers and pregnant women to take their medicines according to instructions printed on the label or packaging, stressing also the need to consult their pharmacists when unsure of information about any drug.
In her contribution, Chief TemiladeFayemi (Alias IyaMetta), a traditional birth attendant and prominent herbal medicine practitioner in Lagos State, who represented the Lagos State herbal medicine practitioners at the event, thanked the organisers of the programme for inviting the herbal medicine practitioners to be part of the programme. She said it was a step in the right direction and that it was an indication that healthcare givers were beginning to realise the need to work as a team.
“We are very grateful to God and to the government for making sure that healthcare providers, irrespective of their backgrounds, are now working together as a family. Traditional and herbal Medicines Practitioners today can confidently raise their hands over their shoulders, among other healthcare providers in the country, and this is a good development for the health sector,” she stated.
She further advised that, in healthcare delivery, especially as it concerns pregnant women and nursing mothers, efforts should be made to enlighten the public that the contributions of healthcare providers like medical doctors, pharmacists and others cannot be overemphasised. She noted that it is important for all pregnant women and nursing mothers to have their names registered at a certified government or private hospital, adding that the fact that one patronises a traditional clinic does not prevent her from also registering at an approved medical centre.
“There are so many benefits of patronising approved medical hospitals.It exposes the mother and the unborn baby or babies to adequate medical care. It also allows expectant couples to know the state and condition of the foetus through scan.It allows them to know if there is any challenge, such as fibroid with the pregnancy; and it also allows the couple to know if the foetus is single or multiple. All these services are rarely found in a traditional clinic and that is why we encourage mothers to also patronise medical hospitals,” she declared.
Also speaking at the event, Pharm. (Chief) YetundeMorohundiya, immediate past national chairman, Association of Lady Pharmacists (ALPs), said Nigeria has very poor rating in matters of maternal and child mortality, adding that even though the government and other major stakeholdersare doing their best, a lot still needs to be done.
On the vital role of traditional medicine practitioners in healthcare delivery, Morohundiya said: “We have found out and even the World Health Organisation (WHO) has realised that 80 percent of our population still goes to traditional birth attendants and traditional healers. So, we cannot take away our traditional healers froma comprehensive and holistic healthcare system; and that is why the Federal Government ordered the states to have traditional medicine boards, so as to integrate the traditional practice into orthodox medicine and to regulate the activities of the traditional medicine practitioners. I am happy to inform you that the Lagos State Government has been at the forefront of this development and I am also a member of that board. We have to let the people know what to do and what not to do and we have to draw the lines, so that people would be properly informed on the limitations of traditional care. This is yielding a great result, as we have gained access to so many women for immunisation, HIV screening, etc through these traditional birth attendants.”
Meanwhile, speaking earlier with journalist, Pharm. ModupeOlogunagba, chairperson, ALPs, Lagos Branch and chief host of the event, said the purpose of the programme, aside from being a part of the Pharmacy Week programmeofthe Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Lagos Chapter, was to celebrate motherhood and childhood in the state. “Maternal and child health is a goal that we have set, being female members of the profession and we are happy that this goal is in line with goal five of the millennium development goals. Nigeria is a country that has not done well, when it comes to the indices of health, as regards to infant and maternal development; so we feel that, as professionals, we could add value to people’s lives by coming forth to give health information and education, especially on drugs because it is the most important in the healthcare system, without which the system is not complete.”
On her message to mothers, she urged them to be up and doing, adding that those still in their productive years should pay adequate attention to their health, while pregnant women mustbe sure to take necessary precautions required of them.
“Women should depend less on self-help or self-treatment and seek medical care or healthcare in recognised institutions and from registered healthcare professionals,” she counselled.
Beneficiaries of the programme could not hide their joy, as majority of them went home with gifts and several packages. While thanking the organisers, Mrs HannNwanawu and Mrs AbibatAkande, who came with their five-month-old and three-month-old daughters respectively, said their joys could not be withheld when their daughters’ names were announced as winners in the Baby Pageant competition. According to Mrs.Nwanawu, “I came here to listen to the health talk and also to learn more on how to take care of myself and my baby, but I got more than enough when free drugs were distributed and also when my baby’s name was announced as one of the winners in the babies’ pageant competition.”
The programme, which had a considerable number of nursing mothers, pregnant women and pharmacists in attendance, was also graced by dignitaries including Mrs AfolakemiSanya, who represented Honourable AbikeDabiriErewa; Pharm. AkintundeObembe, chairman, PSN, Lagos State; Pharm. Bisi Bright; Mrs AfusatAdeshina; Pharm. MobolalnleAdekoya; Pharm. OlufunkeLawal, among others.
A cross-section of mothers and officials of ALPS at the event