By Victor Anya
The poor state of health in Nigeria presently is owing to non-adherence to public health practices. Nations that have succeeded in maintaining high health standards are those that have taken public health practice very seriously. The reason is because once public health is promoted and upped, many outbreaks of diseases and viruses would be prevented. Public health is the science of protecting the safety and improving the health of communities through education, policy making and research for disease and injury prevention. It is protecting and improving the health of people and their communities. This is achieved by promoting healthy lifestyles, researching disease and injury prevention, and detecting, preventing and responding to infectious diseases. Public health also works to limit health disparities by ensuring that healthcare is not a preserve of the rich but for all and sundry and making health facility available and accessible to all irrespective of their social status.
The major concern of public health practitioners is the protection of the health of all the people in communities, states or a country. Public health professionals do everything within their power to ensure the prevention of health problems from occurring or recurring by taking proactive actions through educational programmes, practicable policies, rendering services and conducting researches. Public health keeps a community secure by controlling disease outbreaks; making sure foods, water, air and the environment are safe. Public health professionals help people to avoid leading causes of death such as heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes. In contrast, the concern of clinical professionals like doctors and nurses is to treat and heal individuals who are sick or infected by diseases and viruses.
One of the factors that transmit diseases so very fast is contaminated water, hence public health workers emphasize the need for governments at all strata of governance to ensure the provision of potable water for the teaming populations across the globe. If portable water is available to large populations across the globe, many of the diseases confronting humanity will not be there in the first place. Water is the most utilized elements in the world. Virtually, we use water for everything we do, as we drink it, use it to prepare our meals, drugs, brew our drinks, wash our clothes, clean our homes etc. Meanwhile, one in 10 people around the world have no access to safe drinking water around their homes and most cases resort to drinking contaminated water. This is why World Water Day, which is recognized on March 22 every year, focuses attention on the responsible use of water and access to safe water for everyone. According to the American Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ACDC) about 780 million people around the world lack potable water while another 2.5 billion people lack proper hygienic education to help prevent illness and death from disease. Sadly, the reality is that 88 percent of deaths due to diarrhea illness worldwide are linked to unsafe water.
Another factor that promotes poor health is dirty and unhygienic environment. Poor sanitation and hygiene cause diarrhea diseases such as cholera which kill more children than AIDS, malaria and measles combined making diarrhea the second leading cause of death among children under five.
To promote good public health in the country, certain health agencies were established by the federal government. The National Agency for the Control of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (NACA) was established in February 2000 with the primary purposes of identifying, preventing, caring and supporting Human Immune Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome patients. It formulates policies on HIV/AIDS. It draws resources both locally and internationally for the execution of the activities of HIV/AIDS. The HIV/AIDS Emergency Action Plan, a sector in NACA helped to create awareness about the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the country when the disease was a pandemic. This programme helped a great deal to contain the spread of the disease. However, NACA is not vibrant as it used to be as it is now quiet. Another government agency that helps to promote public health in the country is the National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS) which promotes blood safety and voluntary free blood donation in Nigeria that complies with international standards. The National Blood Transfusion Service screens blood across the country to ensure it is safe before it is used by Nigerians.
The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) established in 1993 is saddled with the responsibility for regulating and controlling the manufacture, importation, exportation, advertisement, distribution, sale and use of food, drugs, cosmetics, medical devices, chemicals and packaged water in the country. The NAFDAC is a public health agency which has assisted enormously in creating awareness about fake and adulterated foods, drugs, cosmetics and chemicals thereby making Nigerians to avoid such hazardous products. This has promoted positive public health to a large extent in the country. Also, the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) was established in 2011 to detect, prevent, survey, diagnose, communicate risk and manage outbreaks of diseases across the country. This is why anytime there are outbreaks of diseases as such cholera, diarrhea, cholera, Lassa fever, poliomyelitis, the centre has the responsibility to alert the public about such outbreaks in order to forestall the continuous or wide spread of such diseases.
The National Malaria Control Programme ensures the reduction of malaria infection rates. It provides access to effective malaria control measures across the country while the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development was established in 1987 to conduct research into the development of medicines, biological products, drugs and diagnostics, all aimed at providing and improving good health among Nigerians. The National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) was established in 2001 to conduct research into biotechnological development of products for the economic growth of Nigerians. Nigerian Institute of Medical Research was established in 1977 to conduct research into diseases of public health interest and disseminate such research findings in order to promote national good health in Nigeria.
Thus, the concern of public health facilitators is to promote healthy lifestyles, researching disease and injury prevention, detecting, preventing and responding to infectious diseases. The above mentioned health agencies were established to promote public health but many of them are no longer functioning as expected. Therefore, to ensure good public health, the aforementioned health agencies should be revamped.