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ASLM Director Seeks More Focus on Africa’s Laboratory Professionals

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ASLM Director Seeks More Focus on Africa’s Laboratory Professionals

By Dipo Olowookere

An expert in the health sector has stressed the urgent need to give priority to laboratory professionals in Africa by coming up with new initiatives and partnerships aimed at training, mentoring and certifying them.

Director of Science and New Initiatives, African Society for Laboratory Medicine (ASLM), Dr Pascale Ondoa, argued that this is very necessary since laboratory professionals play a vital role in the identification of diseases, ensuring the reliability of laboratory investigations and reporting laboratory findings to the clinicians for timely and adequate patient management.

According to Dr Ondoa, who currently serves as senior laboratory scientist at the Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and development (AIGHD), ASLM is committed to raising the profile and importance of laboratory professionals on the African continent, hence the relevance of the forthcoming ASLM conference in Abuja.

“Admittedly, the only interaction that patients have with the laboratory is when their blood is drawn, or other specimens collected for testing. While the role of the laboratory professional cannot be over emphasised, unfortunately due to the public’s limited exposure to them, their value is often overlooked.

“We cannot deny that medical laboratories are an essential part of disease detection, control, prevention and surveillance, as well as response to outbreaks. Unfortunately, most laboratories in Africa are not only poorly resourced but also stretched, liming their capacity to operate effectively,” she said.

Averring that the situation of a high incidence of inadequate and unqualified laboratory professionals in Africa has become a source of great concern with long-term consequences, Dr Ondoa explained that inadequate resources and limited diagnostic services jeopardise the quality of patient care resulting from wrong diagnosis and consequent under/over treatment of the disease, noting that this has a negative impact on the continent both socially and economically.

“Investing in a robust, well-trained and dynamic laboratory workforce in Africa will facilitate the delivery of diagnostics services to over a billion African citizens, advancing universal health coverage and global health security,” Dr Ondoa added.

Last year, the Coordinating Council for the Clinical Laboratory Workforce in the United States identified some of the challenges in the laboratory sector that hampered recruitment and retention efforts.

Some of these issues were: lack of visibility of the profession, low salary increases, poor wages compared with other healthcare professions and a lack of career advancement opportunities.  Sadly, Africa faces similar issues on a much larger scale, coupled with a huge infectious disease burden on the continent.

For any headway to be made in the laboratory medicine sector, Dr Ondoa suggested that the conversation about changing Africa’s laboratory workforce should involve educational institutions as much as laboratory leadership and governance.

“The magnitude of the current shortage of laboratory professionals and reasons for staff attrition are often not properly documented at the country level.

“There are several questions that need to be addressed, such as the demand for laboratory professionals to be equivalent to the number of biomedical graduates and how they are being trained for new technologies and emerging service needs,” she said.

The viro-immunologist with years of experience in HIV also emphasized that there should be discussions around roles and responsibilities of the various categories of the laboratory workforce, requirements for each role, scope of clinical laboratory workers and the key factors affecting the development of this workforce.

“To address some of these issues, ASLM contributes to in-service and pre-service training initiatives, as well as raising awareness about the need to develop a harmonised framework for the certification of laboratory professionals.

“The fact of the matter is increasing the number and improving the skills of the laboratory workforce on the continent is critical, especially as the need for technology-driven health services continues to increase on the continent,” she concluded.

The African Society for Laboratory Medicine (ASLM) 2018 Conference will hold in Abuja from December 10-13, 2018 and the theme of the conference is, ‘Preventing and Controlling The Next Pandemic: The Role of The Laboratory.’

Dipo Olowookere is a journalist based in Nigeria that has passion for reporting business news stories. At his leisure time, he watches football and supports 3SC of Ibadan. Mr Olowookere can be reached via dipo.olowookere@businesspost.ng

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Health Insurance for all Nigerians by 2030 Now Realistic—NHIA

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health insurance for all Nigerians

By Adedapo Adesanya

The National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) has commended President Muhammadu Buhari for signing into law the NHIA Act, saying health insurance for all Nigerians by 2030 is now more realisable.

The NHIS Deputy General Manager, Mr Emmanuel Ononokpono, in a statement said, “For over two decades, industry professionals had sustained the call for an amendment to the health insurance law, being a major impediment to the attainment of Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

“By this development, efforts to tackle the high incidence of poverty caused by out-of-pocket expenses for health care, through health insurance for all categories of Nigerians by 2030, is now more realisable than ever before.”

Mr Ononokpono also said that the management was also grateful to the Senate and the House of Representatives for their roles in the lead up to the enactment of the law.

He acknowledged the roles played by different stakeholders in the course of the legislative work on the law.

According to him, the Act establishes and empowers the NHIA to ensure the provision of health insurance for all Nigerians through a mandatory mechanism, in collaboration with state health insurance agencies.

He said that sections 25 and 26 of the Act established the Vulnerable Group Fund (VGF), indicating the various sources from which funding would be drawn.

Mr Ononokpono said that the legislation strengthened the NHIA to discharge a wide range of regulatory and promotion functions, to ultimately ensure that every Nigerian received access to quality and affordable health care.

He said that the legislation Mr Buhari assented to did not make provision for a telecommunications tax as a source of funding in the law, contrary to reports in some national media.

Mr Ononokpono also urged stakeholders and industry players, including the media to wait for a formal unveiling of the document.

President Buhari signed the National Health Insurance Authority Bill 2021 last week.

The newly signed law by the President repeals the National Health Insurance Scheme Act 2004.

Under the previous Act, states were required to pay a 50 per cent counterpart fund to access the total fund for the Basic Healthcare Provision Fund (BHCPF).

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Health

Explainer: What is Monkeypox Virus?

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Monkeypox virus

By Adedapo Adesanya

In a world where the coronavirus is still around, attention may shift to the Monkeypox virus – which has been found in Australia, the United States, and some top countries in Europe.

What is the Monkeypox Virus?

According to a World Health Organisation (WHO) research, the Monkeypox virus is a virus that is transmitted to humans from animals. The first case was discovered back in a small child back in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

It is a rare disease caused by the monkeypox virus, part of the same family as smallpox, though typically less severe. The incubation period of the newly spreading Monkeypox virus ranges from 6 to 13 days. However, it might be from 5 to 21 days.

Symptoms

Symptoms such as fever, intense headache, lymphadenopathy, back pain, myalgia (muscle aches), and an intense asthenia (lack of energy) usually appear in the patients who test positive for the Monkeypox virus. On the other hand, skin eruption usually starts within 1-3 days of the appearance of fever. The rash appears mostly on the face and extremities rather than on the chest.

History in Nigeria

There have since been sporadic cases reported across 10 African countries, including Nigeria, which in 2017 experienced the largest documented outbreak, with 172 suspected and 61 confirmed cases. In terms of age, 75 per cent of those affected were males aged 21 to 40 years old.

Cases outside of Africa have historically been less common and typically linked to international travel or imported animals.

How Can One Catch Monkeypox?

Monkeypox spreads when someone comes into close contact with another person, animal or material infected with the virus. The virus can enter the body through broken skin, the respiratory tract or through the eyes, nose and mouth. Human to human transmission most commonly occurs through respiratory droplets, though usually requires prolonged face-to-face contact.

Animal to human transmission meanwhile may occur via a bite or scratch but the disease is not generally considered a sexually transmitted disease, though it can be passed on during sex.

Available Treatment

There are currently no proven, safe treatments for monkeypox, though most cases are mild. In the past, researchers said that vaccination against smallpox with the vaccinia vaccine was proved through several observational studies to be about 85 per cent effective in preventing the Monkeypox virus.

A newer vaccinia-based vaccine was approved for the prevention of smallpox and monkeypox in 2019 and is also not yet widely available in the public sector. Countries including the United Kingdom and Spain are now offering the vaccine to those who have been exposed to infections to help reduce symptoms and limit the spread.

Can it Kill?

Monkeypox cases can occasionally be more severe, with some deaths having been reported in West Africa. However, health authorities stress that we are not on the brink of a serious outbreak and the risks to the general public remain very low.

What are Health Regulators Saying?

WHO says it continues to closely monitor as the situation is evolving rapidly. It is supporting member states with surveillance, preparedness, and outbreak response activities for monkeypox in affected countries.

Health authorities in the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada urged people who experience new rashes or are concerned about monkeypox to contact their healthcare provider.

WHO also clarified that does it not recommend any restrictions for travel based on available information at this time.

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Health

Malaria: Nova Diamond Launches Give A Net Campaign

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Nova Diamond Foundation Give a Net campaign

By Adedapo Adesanya

In commemoration of World Malaria Day for the year 2022, Nova Diamond Foundation has launched a campaign called Give a Net, ave Lives.

The Give a Net campaign is targeted to protect the most vulnerable in society, including pregnant women and children under the age of 5 because of the increased death rate, according to WHO 2021 Malaria report.

WHO described malaria as the 3rd highest killer non-communicable disease as the disease kills four in every five malaria cases in Nigeria. Malaria is the number one endemic in the country, which also has the highest number of malaria-related deaths.

To address this issue and reduce malaria-related deaths, Nova Diamond Foundation has partnered with the Lagos State Ministry of Health to educate residents on the danger posed by malaria.

The organisation also worked in partnership with Mobaby Care to walk the streets of Lagos, starting with Agboyi LCDA under Kosofe LGA, Mascara Primary Health Centre and Alapere Primary Health Centre, Ketu. These health facilities were visited between Monday, April 25 and Wednesday, April 27, 2022.

During the visits, pregnant mothers and children were given some malaria prevention incentives like Insecticides Treated Nets (ITNS) and mosquito repellant creams from Mobaby Care.

The executive director of Nova Diamond Foundation, Mrs Oluwafikayo Ooju, sensitised the participants on how to protect their unborn children, toddlers and themselves from malaria by ensuring that they always sleep under an insecticide-treated net.

She also lectured them on keeping their environment clean from stagnant water, ensuring children are well covered up and use of repellant to the exposed parts of the body.

In addition, she educated them on how to identify the symptoms of malaria as well as the need to visit the primary health centres for proper diagnosis and treatment immediately after they notice any symptoms.

In her remarks, the Medical Officer in charge of Agboyi LCDA, Dr Mariam Oshodi, commended the effort of the foundation and also advised the beneficiaries to use all the incentives distributed to them.

The team intends to visit other primary health centres across Lagos state and hopes to reach at least 1,000 pregnant mothers and 1000 children aged 0-5.

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