Return home to build resilient healthcare system, U.S based physicians tell Nigerians

A U.S.-based Physician, Dr. Terrance Baker, has charged Nigerians in the diaspora to return home to build a more resilient healthcare system in the country.

He made the call at the 5th Annual International Conference of the Nigeria Association of Foreign Trained Pharmacists (NAFTraPh) held on Thursday in Lagos.

Baker is a Johns Hopkins Community Physician, Department of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, U.S. and the Producer of Doctors in the House, a TV show in the U.S.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the theme for the three-day conference is ‘Social Determinants of Health and Populations Health Outcomes in a Developing Economy- Nigeria’s Perspective’.

Baker urged the Nigerian government to welcome those in the Diaspora who want to return home to help make the country better, by creating an enabling environment that would make them comfortable.

According to him, sending money back to the country is not enough to fix the country.

Baker noted that many Nigerians in America and Europe command tremendous influence, noting that they include men and women who are successful financially.

“Many of them send money home, but I believe they should be encouraged to actually return home.

“For example, Nigerian pharmacists are going to get training and experience and are returning home to change the healthcare system.

“I believe the diaspora must come home. I believe they can’t improve Nigeria from afar; they can’t rule, they can’t manage it from a distance. You cannot manage your country from a thousand miles away, it is very hard.

“They need to come and be part of it. Those in the diaspora need to invest in farming and farm equipment. They need to come and put their money to improve the food emergency.”

Delivered his keynote address titled, ‘Social Determinants of Health and Populations, Health Outcomes in a Developing Economy – Nigeria’s Perspective’, Baker said there are several concerns that caused the healthcare to be poor in most parts of Nigeria.

He said they include poverty, inadequate housing, inadequate water and sanitation, inadequate transportation, and safety concerns of terrorism and violence.

“I am happy to be here to deliver the keynote address at the 5th conference of internationally trained pharmacists, who have returned back to Nigeria to practise pharmacy.

“Today, we discussed social determinants of healthcare and in Nigeria today, there are several key concerns that cause healthcare to be poor throughout most of Nigeria.

“For example, 2,500 children between the ages of zero to 25 years will die today, and most as a result of poverty, inadequate housing, inadequate water and sanitation, inadequate transportation, and safety concerns of terrorism and violence.

“Nigeria is currently in the middle of a food insecurity emergency and I believe the emergency can be addressed,” Baker added.

According to him, Nigeria is in a position to be one of the greatest nations in the African continent, saying, “I believe Nigeria uniquely has a workforce and has the resources necessary to lead the world.

“Nigerians in medicine, medical doctors in America, Europe and Asia lead the world in medicine. Pharmacists throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, Asia and Europe lead the world in the care of patients in pharmacy and nursing.

“Nigerian nurses are a major workforce throughout the world, caring for patients.

“Nigerians have proven that they have the unique capability in health and can also lead the world; either way, that determines a workforce for the entire world.”

A Clinical Nutrition Consultant, Mrs. Sherese Ljewere, spoke on the need to improve child and maternal health and not negate paternal health.

“The foetus origin of the disease is ensuring that the mother’s maternal health and the father’s paternal health are good before pregnancy,” she said.

Ljewere, who is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Carib Health Ltd., a Health, Wellness, and Nutrition Company in Ikoyi, Lagos, urged couples to ensure that they are physically fit before, during and after pregnancy.

In her presentation titled, ‘Nutrition, Fetal Origin of Diseases, and Population’s Health”, she said expectant parents must consume lots of fruits and vegetables to maintain wellness.

She urged people to avoid processed, refined and sweetened food and consume whole foods like tubers, roots, vegetables, and fruits as well as engage in regular exercising.

Ijewere further urged them to have a proper mindset and lifestyle.

She also urged the government to empower more women and youths in urban farming to discourage them from consuming refined food.

On his part, the Chairman/CEO, Archy Pharmaceuticals Ltd., Lagos, Dr. Anthony Ihenatu, urged the Federal Government to address the issue of multiple taxation, multiple regulations, infrastructure, electricity and insecurity.

He added, “Other challenges that must be urgently addressed include an increase in the price of raw materials and depreciation of the Naira.

“I believe the first thing the government should do is to save the Nigerian Naira and by doing what they have to do. Nigerians are one of the best economists in the world. They know what to do to prop up the value of the Naira.”

Ihenatu, presented a paper titled, Pharmaceutical industry practice during economic downturn: what is the way forward?”.

Earlier, the President, Nigeria Association of Foreign Trained Pharmacists, Dr. John Ejezie, said that the association would continue to promote professional growth and development as well as a sense of community service.

According to him, NAFTraPh is a professional organisation that educates, sensitises, trains members and others, creates health awareness, and promotes community capacity building and effective utilisation of pharmaceutical products.

He, however, urged the Federal Government to address the mirage of challenges facing the health sector and the country in general.

Ejezie also urged the government to address the Naira and foreign exchange challenges, adding, “In 2023, we have continued to experience supply chain challenges and paucity of goods and services, especially in the healthcare sector.

“Currently, we experience high inflation rates that are at an all-time high. These socio-economic menaces are experienced across the globe, but developing economies are disproportionately impacted due to non-robust socio-economic structures that may not absorb such societal and economic shocks.

“Despite all these societal menaces and socio-economic challenges, we cannot let those wonderful dreams and aspirations dissipate, or anyone or circumstance to kill it,” he said.