..laments insufficient radiotherapy centres, population-based cancer registries in Nigeria
..advocates adequate political will for cancer care, incentivizing Oncology specialty
Nigerian Medical Students have been charged to borrow a leaf from their American counterparts by contributing to improvement in healthcare services through volunteerism, in order to curb the prevalence of Non-Communicable Diseases.
Wife of the Governor of Ondo State, Chief Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, gave this advice at the 8th Regional Convention of the Nigerian Medical Students’ Association (NiMSA), held at the Alfa Belgore Hall of Afe Babalola University Ado-Ekiti, on Friday.
The Ondo First Lady, who spoke on ‘Revitalising the Role of Medical Students in the advocacy of Breast Cancer’, being the guest lecturer at the event, decried the high cost of cancer care, and averred that volunteering in breast cancer advocacy, conducting Clinical Breast Examination and provision of psychosocial support by NiMSA, would go a long way in early detection, and consequently, reduce cancer burden.
“Students in the medical field have been found to be instrumental in a number of public health victories. One study (Shibu, 2021) noted how medical students in the United States of America volunteered as frontline workers when school was closed during COVID-19 pandemic. It is interesting to note that even when school got back on session, a good number continued to volunteer in their frontline roles because of their “internal motivation and external pressure of strained healthcare environment”. She said.
Mrs Akeredolu, who founded Breast Cancer Association of Nigeria, BRECAN, about 25years ago, further encouraged the students to be volunteers of some advocacy NGOs like BRECAN, adding that “You can also provide voluntary service in primary healthcare centres where medical Doctors are lacking”.
She further encouraged establishment of medical student-run clinic to care for undeserved populations and homeless individuals, as witnessed in the USA.
The BRECAN Founder, who revealed the WHO 2020 statistics of 26,000 new cases of breast cancer in Nigeria with about 11,500 deaths yearly, identified late detection, presentation and poor health care services as major causes of the increasing burden of the disease in Nigeria.
She also identified little political will to cancer care, and inadequate radiotherapy centres as other factors contributing to its prevalence and morbidity in Nigeria, compared to countries like Morocco and India who were both referred to as low-middle income countries like Nigeria.
She said: “Although, Nigeria has a national cancer plan, it is yet to be implemented and domesticated at the state and local government level. Radiotherapy is an important treatment option for cancer patients yet it is not generally available in Nigeria; whereas Morocco with a population of just about 32million people has 17 functional radiotherapy centres as of 2014.
“The Federal government is yet to commence any routine based campaign to raise awareness on any form of cancer. Majority of the awareness creation on cancer are organised by non-governmental organisations working around cancer”.
The Guest Lecturer called for a holistic approach to breast cancer programming, noting that creating awareness without addressing the issue of patient navigation and quality cancer care services would render awareness almost useless.
“Clearly, reducing the cancer burden requires the effort of an adequate amount of human resource, yet only few personnel and organisations are working in the Nigerian cancer space.
“The job of awareness and patient navigation is pretty much abandoned for NGOs who have very little or no fund to fulfil their mission; while diagnosis and treatment is left for the very few oncologists left in the country who barely have resources to work with”. She asserted.
She lamented insufficient population-based cancer registries in Nigeria, which, according to her, made it quite impossible to understand the cancer needs in the country.
Mrs. Akeredolu, expressed concern about the tremendous high-level brain drain in the medical field, and, therefore, emphasised the need to utilise the plethora of medical students to rescue the health system.
She enjoined the students to develop interest in Oncology specialty, stating that it would be difficult to achieve much in the cancer space if the young healthcare providers weren’t interested in cancer care.
“There is a need for the government to create pull-factors for the Oncology specialty by investing more in cancer care infrastructure and incentivizing the specialty”. She advised.
The Ondo First Lady who paid a visit to the Founder of ABUAD, Aare Afe Babalola in his office, and was later conducted round the institution’s Multi-System Hospital, farm, and power plant, commended the facilities erected there and lauded him for the tremendous legacy.
Addressing the hypertension care segment of the theme of the convention, a Consultant Nephrologist cum Chief Medical Director of Zenith Medical & Kidney Centre, Dr. Olalekan Olatise, identified behavioural risk factors of non-communicable diseases to include unhealthy lifestyles and poor diet, physical inactivity, tobacco and harmful use of alcohol.
According to him, unhealthy diet and environment contribute 50% to BP increase, noting that 50% weren’t aware they’re hypertensive, reason there were increase rate of diseases like kidney failure which is now prevalent.
He, therefore, charged medical students to help in BP care advocacy by organising hypertension meetings and Congresses, and conduct clinical screening for people.
Earlier in her address, the NiMSA Southwest Coordinator, Miss Falana Kanyinsola, had disclosed the commitment of the medical students to present themselves as solution providers to the prevalent Non-Communicable Diseases, hence, the reason for the theme of the convention.
The NiMSA Convention has ‘Re-addressing the perils of Non-Communicable Diseases in developing countries’, and ‘Revitalising the Role of the Medical Students in the Advocacy of preventable cancers and hypertension’, as its theme and sub-theme, respectively.
In attendance were the Deputy Vice Chancellor, Prof. Sylvester Ojo, the Provost of ABUAD School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Prof. Raphael Ogundipe, SSA on Public health to Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Jimlas Ogunsakin, amongst others.
The Medical Students presented an award of appreciation to the First Lady.
Special Assistant to Ondo State Governor on Media ( Office of the First Lady)
August 26, 2022
📸 Saidu Abdulrahman