The special adviser to the President on health, Salma Anas-Kolo, has attributed maternal and newborn deaths in the country to poor functional Primary Healthcare facilities (PHFs).
Mrs Anas-Kolo said this on Friday in Akwanga, Nasarawa state, at the 7th Annual Health Conference of the Association Of Nigeria Health Journalists (ANHEJ), with the overarching theme, “Health Security: Nigeria’s Efforts to Achieve Universal Health Coverage”.
Speaking on “Improving Access To Healthcare: The Role of Primary Health Care”, she said the challenges to maternal and child deaths could be averted and prevented if the PHCs were rebranded to guarantee health security.
“Nigeria is among the 3 per cent of the world’s population and is a significant contributor to the global burden of maternal and newborn deaths.
“This is attributed to poorly functional PHC systems, resulting in a lack of available equipment and low healthcare coverage, as well as inadequate financing in the health sector,” she said.
According to her, having an effective PHC system will build the foundation of a healthier society, reiterating the present administration’s effort to revitalise the sector to achieve the SDG 2030 target of universal health coverage.
“The PHC is the fulcrum for a resilient health system and should be structured to be able to deliver services that will support the attainment of UHC and guarantee health security.
“The PHC is the entry point into the health care service delivery system where 80 per cent of the health issues should be sorted out, and essential basic care needs provided.
“As a gateway to accessing health services, it should be designed to fit the purpose for proper functioning and operations to be prepared for the needs of the community where it is located.
“It should be a hub of positive interaction that gives hope and relieves anxieties and distress to whoever is there, whether as a caregiver or client/patient.
“It should be community-owned and lead for optimal utilisation and sustainability of the PHC system along with the aspirations and potentials of the people and their developmental growth needs.
“The PHC should be linked to a secondary care facility to ease referrals of cases requiring more expert attention.”
She said that despite receiving the least attention from PHC in the country, morbidity and mortality burden was still on the increase due to pregnancy-related conditions, as a result weakening the link of the health service delivery system in the country.
“In the integrated system that we are promoting, we aspire to ensure that as soon as a pregnant woman visits a healthcare facility, the quality and level of care she requires to deliver a healthy child is assured.
These include the payment for the services she would receive, ensuring that she is covered under one form of health insurance or the other,” she said.
She said that there was generally poor health-seeking behaviour due to poor literacy and socio-cultural factors, long distances to health facilities and lack of transport to referral facilities; poverty and lack of access to water, sanitation,
Amongst others, she said, were hygiene (WASH) with a hike in cases of non-communicable diseases (such as Cardiovascular diseases, Diabetes, Chronic Obstructive Airway Diseases, Mental Health Diseases, Cancers, and Sickle Cell Diseases) amidst the existing epidemics of communicable diseases in the country.
Also speaking, Chika Offor, founder of the Vaccine Network for Disease Control (VNDC), said that vaccine advocacy by journalists was vital for public health education, countering vaccine hesitancy, holding authorities accountable, building trust, and fostering dialogue.
Ms Offor, also the chair of the Health Sector Reform Coalition (HSRC), said that their role in disseminating accurate and reliable information was crucial in ensuring the success of vaccination campaigns and protecting public health.
While congratulating the newly-elected Exco of ANHEJ, Offor said that VNDC aimed to address critical health challenges faced by children and women in the country, such as vaccine-preventable diseases and maternal health issues.
“Trust in vaccines and public health authorities is crucial for successful vaccination campaigns of any nation.
ANHEJ can contribute to building trust by reporting on the rigorous scientific process behind vaccine development, testing, and approval.
“ANHEJ can also highlight the positive impact of vaccines on public health, sharing success stories and real-life examples of how vaccines have saved lives and prevented diseases,” she said.
She said the partnership with ANHEJ would signify a collaborative effort to prioritise and improve healthcare services for these vulnerable populations.
She said that the commitment would involve initiatives such as increasing access to vaccines, improving immunisation coverage, and strengthening healthcare infrastructure and services in the country.
She said that by focusing on the health of children and women, the vaccine network and ANHEJ would aim to contribute to the overall development and well-being of the Nigerian population.
“The partnership will also involve advocacy and awareness campaigns to promote the importance of vaccinations and maternal health practices,” she said.
She said that the collaboration between the vaccine network and the ANHEJ would highlight the commitment towards achieving better health outcomes for children and women in the country.