Public Health in Nigeria: History, Importance, Challenges and Salary

Table of Content:

👉Meaning of Public Health

👉History of Public Health in Nigeria

👉Importance of public health in Nigeria

👉Discuss at least four of the challenges of Public Health in Nigeria

👉Public Health Issues in Nigeria

Following the evolution of diverse public health concepts, the development of public health began in ancient times. Prior to the scientific coining and definition of the phrase, the notion of public health existed. The problem of disease and health has existed since the dawn of time. In the Middle Ages, leprosy victims were quarantined, and efforts to enhance sanitation were made following plague epidemics in the 14th century.

As Europe’s population grew, there was a greater awareness of newborn fatalities and a profusion of hospitals. As a result of these advances, contemporary public health agencies and organizations were established, with the goal of controlling disease within communities and overseeing the availability and distribution of medicines.

The History of Public Health in Nigeria

Local African groups have a variety of indigeneous and traditional means of dealing with sickness. During the pre-colonial era, numerous Nigerian communities had established preventive and curative methods. While some of these practices are still used today due to their success, others have been reinterpreted or enhanced in modern public health practice. Although public health cannot be claimed to be a completely new idea brought by the colonial masters, many components of it were in use prior to colonialism.

Individuals known to be suffering from dangerous and contagious diseases such as leprosy were known to be isolated in secluded environments where they were kept incommunicado with other members of the community, so preventive practices such as isolation cannot be said to be foreign to Nigerian indigenous communities.

The upkeep of appropriate sanitation in communities was governed by a set of rules. For example, women and children, particularly girls, sweep the homes/neighborhoods and empty garbage bins, whilst men cut down and clear the shrubs in their immediate vicinity. There are also cultural festivities that encourage cleanliness in communities till date.

As you can see from the above, health maintenance has been a part of Nigerian culture since time immemorial. Personal hygiene and health were important to our forefathers. Despite the fact that some regions believed illnesses were sent by the gods, people practiced personal hygiene and abstained from unhealthy behaviors.

Traditional educators were available to teach and educate communities about the importance of public health, as “the health of one affects the health of all”. Communities devised means to contain the spread of diseases (by isolation of persons considered to be ill) and prolong life through the intake of medicinal herbal plants.

The first medical officer of health in Nigeria was Isaac Ladipo Oluwole, appointed in Lagos in the year, 1925. He was a Nigerian physician who made significant contributions to the country’s public health services. Some of his achievements include establishment of the first school of hygiene in Nigeria, at Yaba, Lagos, opening of the Massey Street Dispensary, reclamation of swampy islands to promote malaria management, and construction of a new abattoir to increase food security, among other accomplishments. Between 1924 and 1930, an epidemic known as bubonic plague struck Lagos, causing numerous deaths in unclean shanty neighborhoods.

Many of the slums were razed, forcing residents to relocate to the sprawling suburbs. Isaac Oluwole helped combat the spread of the Bubonic plague, by re-organizing sanitary inspection procedures in Lagos’ port. However, public health became introduced officially to Nigeria in 1987, when the then-military government headed by General Ibrahim Babginda launched the first Primary Health Care Plan.

The Importance of Public Health in Nigeria

The importance of public health in any nation cannot be over-emphasized. Health, as we know is one of the greatest assets of a nation, and as such shouldn’t be toiled with. It is determined by a complex interaction of factors including genetic, environmental, and lifestyle. Public health ensures all these determinants that affect health are identified, and interventions discovered and appropriate actions carried out; thereafter, assessed to test for the effectiveness/impact.

These advancements in health have been known to show tremendous improvement in the health outcomes of a population, and their standard of living. There’s more to public health than being just a field of study, drawing knowledge and abilities from a wide range of disciplines, including biology, environmental science, sociology, psychology, government, medicine, statistics, and communication; public health is important to help prevent disease, prolong life, and promote health.

Public Health in Nigeria: History, Importance, Challenges and Salary
Understanding the concept of public health in Nigeria

This can be possible through organized community mobilization and participation, environmental sanitation, control of communicable diseases, education of individuals in principles of personal hygiene, organization of medical and nursing service for the early diagnosis and preventive treatment of disease.

What are the Challenges of Public Health in Nigeria?

Below are some of the challenges of Public Health in Nigeria:

1. Very Little Prominence As Regards this Field of Study in Schools:

There are over 170 tertiary institutions in Nigeria (number inclusive of federal, state and private schools), and only a few specialize in public health. Unlike other professions, public health isn’t widely known as a field of study, its usually learned people that do know about it. To aid its prominence, there is a need for additional school-based accreditation of this discipline. That way, specializations are increased, and the field and its professionals gain more importance in the country.

2. Paucity of Public Health Experts:

Due to fewer number of universities offering Public Health in Nigeria, there tend to be a paucity of professionals to help tackle the numerous problems in the health sector.
More so, lots of public health graduates and professionals would prefer to travel outside the country in search for greener pastures. This could result to brain drain, leaving a few to address the health problems of the country which could prove burdensome.

3. Lack of Commitment in the part of the Government:

More importantly, the government’s lack of commitment has contributed significantly to the deterioration of the fragile sector. The government’s health-care performance has been appalling. There has been a lack of investment in health infrastructure. The severity of these issues is exacerbated by insufficient financial allocation.

4. Lack of Strategic Plan and Preparedness for Epidemics/Pandemics:

Unlike developed countries, which have standards in place for emergency situations such as epidemics. Nigeria, on the other hand, lacks adequacy in developing strategic plans for such calamities. Furthermore, disease management and surveillance systems, as well as emergency coordination, are inadequately handled in Nigeria.

5. Insecurity:

Insecurity has always been a health challenge in Nigeria, particularly in the northern region of the country. As a result, a substantial number of people get displaced, thus, limiting the delivery of health services in those areas. Major public health concerns exist in other regions too, asides insurgencies, bandit attacks, kidnappings, and assassinations prominent in the North. The Eastern part of Nigeria are also faced with pandemonium due to IPOB activities. This is one of the major challenges that affect public health in Nigeria, as many public health professionals avoid working or being relocated to these insecured areas to avoid losing their lives, leaving people who live in those areas at the detriment of their health.

6. Lack of Cost-effective and Sustainable Health Interventions:

Priority public health issues like noncommunicable diseases, maternity and child health, and others are rarely addressed with cost-effective solutions. Another is non-use of sustainable interventions. It’s one thing to implement cost-effective interventionss; it’s another to ensure that those health interventions are long-term viable.

7. Few Public Health Organizations and Societies in Nigeria:

The Nigerian government, non-governmental organizations’, and donor agencies’ combined efforts are insufficient to offer effective and efficient healthcare delivery. There are only a few organizations that work to promote public health. The Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) is the national public health institute for Nigeria. There is a need for more development of public health related government agencies, NGOs, research institutes, bodies, institutions, and organizations to help tackle public health issues in Nigeria.

8. Lack of Effective Primary Healthcare Centers (PHCs) in communities:

The Nigerian health care system is built on primary health care, which has not shown to be effective in addressing the country’s myriad health issues. More medical practitioners should be recruited, and a pleasant working environment created to address the country’s persistent public health issues.

All of these challenges have resulted in a slew of health issues in Nigeria. Major public health issues in Nigeria include: High disease burden, inadequate sanitation and hygiene, maternity and infant mortality, poor sewage and waste disposal, lack of water supply, air and noise pollution, environmental radiation and deterioration, and alcohol abuse.

What is the Average Salary of Public Health Professionals in Nigeria?

In Nigeria, the average income for public health professionals ranges from N180,000 to N350,000, depending on their entry level, educational degree, kind of organization, and other factors. Professionals who work for organizations outside of Nigeria, on the other hand, get higher salaries.

Stella-maris Achumba is a public health graduate

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