Providing Affordable Healthcare in Nigeria should be everyone’s business-Adaku Efuribe
‘It is my greatest desire that we improve the healthcare system in Nigeria and provide affordable healthcare for local communities at the grassroots so that people can have access to the care they need, when they need it, in ways that are user-friendly’
The 74th UN General Assembly took place in New York last September; high level meetings were held and Universal Health Coverage (UHC) was a hot topic for the week. As expected, Nigeria had a delegation of Government representatives, NGO’s and individual advocates who are working towards achieving SDG3 and UHC in attendance. So how do we implement new policies and what are the key drivers to providing UHC for all in Nigeria?
As an advocate for UHC/SDGs, I have been lending my voice over the years calling the Nigerian Government to action towards implementing UN SDGs agenda and achieving UHC.I have studied and participated in primary healthcare provision in developed economies and can say for sure healthcare provision is very expensive, but I believe we can up our game towards providing primary health care for everyone at the point of need.
Some developed economies have used the tax system to ensure their national health service does not run out of funds, a percentage of all earnings is taxed and put aside in a ‘pot’ to supplement the health budget. From a lay man’s point of view, just like the banking system, we all bank our money at different times and we withdraw money at different times, so for a contributory healthcare system, everyone will not fall sick at the same time, some will experience life threatening sickness at some point in their life, some would have long term conditions like CVDs, Diabetes, etc., while others would only go through emergencies or minor ailments/major diseases.
In Nigeria for instance, we have a few HMO schemes covering the organised private and public sector. The ‘common man’ on the street does not have any sort of health insurance whatsoever, which leaves them at the mercy of chance. In an unfortunate event of serious illness like cancer or organ failure, they find themselves in a situation where they cannot pay for medical services hence resorting to luck to stay alive. A lot of unavoidable deaths have occurred due to lack of funds to pay for medical treatment.
The public primary care providers are underfunded and the issue of corruption has eaten deep into the fabric of the healthcare system where funds allocated for medical equipment’s, pharmaceuticals etc. are diverted for personal use.
What plans does the present Government in Nigeria have to provide Universal Health Coverage and in so doing, contribute to the economic growth of the Country?
Sustainability can be defined as meeting the needs of today without compromising the needs of tomorrow.
‘As articulated in SDG 3, health is crucial for sustainable human development, both as an inalienable human right and an essential contributor to the economic growth of society. Health contributes to national development through productive employment, reduced expenditure on illness care and greater social cohesion.
We believe that universal health coverage (UHC), delivered through an adequately-resourced and well-governed health system, will be capable of addressing these and other health challenges. Universal health coverage must ensure equitable access to affordable, accountable, appropriate health services of assured quality to all people.
These must include promotive, preventive, curative, palliative and rehabilitative services. UHC must be supported by policies and services addressing the wider social and environmental determinants of health for individuals and populations’. Sustainable Developments solutions network
Key words for providing health systems that works:
• Well Governed Systems- Are there systems and policies in place that can be retained and continued
• Promotive- Do we have health promotion strategies in place to promote good health and wellbeing
• Preventative- Are we taking preventative measures seriously, screening, vaccination, reducing CVD risk through lifestyle management?
• Curative- When we fall ill or in times of emergency, do we have access to affordable healthcare, or does sickness lead to poverty?
• Palliative and rehabilitative services- For terminally ill patients, do we have plans for social prescribing and support? For people engaged in substance misuse, do we have plans for treatment, rehabilitation and integration back into the society
WHO uses 16 essential health services in 4 categories as indicators of the level and equity of coverage in countries: Where does Nigeria rank in the indicators?
Reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health:
• family planning
• antenatal and delivery care
• full child immunization
Health-seeking behaviour for pneumonia
• tuberculosis treatment
• HIV antiretroviral treatment
• Hepatitis treatment
• use of insecticide-treated bed nets for malaria prevention
• adequate sanitation.
• prevention and treatment of raised blood pressure
• prevention and treatment of raised blood glucose
• cervical cancer screening
• tobacco (non-)smoking.
Service capacity and access:
• basic hospital access
• health worker density
• access to essential medicines
• health security: compliance with the International Health Regulations.
The Nigerian Government can do more to improve health outcomes and tackle poverty, by increasing coverage of health services, and by reducing the impoverishment associated with payment for health services. We can subsidise the payment for health services and provide emergency health care at the point of need by ensuring we are constantly reviewing our health policies and implementing proven international strategies. The Health budget does not in any way reflect the health needs of Nigerians, this needs to be reviewed.
As Individuals, if we take health promotion seriously, and change our lifestyle habits, then we can make changes that would reduce the cost of health as well.
Adaku Efuribe is an SDGs/UHC Advocate & Clinical Pharmacist with expertise in medicines management, integrated healthcare and health promotion.