The appointment of Professor Grange as Minister of Health continues to draw plaudits as many commentators compare her appointment to that of another paediatrician Professor Olikoye Ransome-Kuti in 1985. Professor Kuti, brother of the iconoclastic Nigerian musician Fela, was deeply committed to primary health care. I remember him particularly for leading by example, giving up his twenty cigarettes a day habit when he was appointed Minister and maintaining a lowkey style throughout his tenure.
The challenges that Professor Grange and her team face are numerous as looking at recent Nigerian health stories show:. The report that people in some parts of the troubled Niger Delta may be facing health risks as a result of radioactivity in abandoned oil wells raises the challenge of environmental health.
Child health and immunisation should also be high on her priority list, taking advantage of donor support as this story and this story indicate
Meanwhile there’s been a new turn in the Pfizer case as Pfizer has been allowed to apply for an injunction stopping the Nigerian government from relying on the report of the panel it set up in 1996 to investigate the alleged drug trial. The report was never officially released and only became public via an article in the Washington Post. Pfizer is now relying on this failure to argue that the findings of the panel cannot be admitted in court. The question of why the report was never released is an interesting one which should interest any Nigerian investigative journalists- that would make a prizewinning story!
The Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria recent move to overhaul the undergraduate medical curriculum to include medical ethics, information technology and health economics is welcome, as is the plan to make Continuing Professional Development a condition for renewal of medical licenses, but the challenge will be in the implementation – does the Council have the capacity to monitor and do the medical schools have the capacity to deliver these changes? Yet another task for Professor Grange and her team…
Meanwhile the move by Covenant University (a private university owned by the Nigerian Pentecostal church Winners Chapel) to subject all final year students to mandatory HIV and pregnancy tests has caused a furore in the HIV sector of Nigeria’s civil society with mass action being planned, led by the formidable activist Rolake Odetoyinbo of the Treatment Action Movement and complaints being made to the National Universities Commission. Apart from the human rights and other concerns that this action raises, it indicates a failure of some of the HIV awareness campaigns to actually reach the people who need it. We wait to see what the response will be.Interestingly the university website is silent on the matter.
Meanwhile, a blog, Bush Doctor in the City by Dr Wilson Orhiunu a Nigerian general practitioner in the UK has been brought to our attention. It’s a lighthearted attempt reflecting on practice in Nigeria and the UK
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has…Margaret Mead