Most Nigerians don't make it a point of duty to know their health status while many practise self-medication even when they are sick. LARA ADEJORO who spoke with some Nigerians and medical experts highlights some of the factors responsible for this unhealthy habits.
Going for medical check-up is definitely not in the habit of most Nigerians and thereby don't place high value on their health as a result it affects productivity and performance.
The term is generally not meant to include visits for the purpose of newborn checks, Pap smears for cervical cancer, or regular visits for people with certain chronic medical disorders (for example, diabetes). It involves a medical history, a (brief or complete) physical examination and sometimes laboratory tests. Some more advanced tests include ultrasound and mammography.
However, some factors responsible for the poor medical check-up among Nigerians include:
1. Ignorance: Most Nigerians don't know why they should go for medical check up. Narrating her experience with her diabetic mother, Toyin Awolusi said, "my mother is diabetic but before then she used to think she was healthy because she doesn't fall sick and she works hard. And when she eventually broke down, we took her to the hospital. Though, she adhered to the dos and don'ts as advised by the doctor but that was for a while. She would ask us to prepare vegetables, get her fruits but after a while, she went back to what she is used to eating. She takes lots of sugary things even though, she knows it's not good for her. She's just care-free about her health and she keeps telling us she's fine. She believes, everyone will die someday of an ailment or the other."
Also, Mr. Chuks Okoh who was privileged to be a beneficiary of the free medical mission organsied by the Real Visionaries Initiative (RVI), at Oworonshoki, a suburb in Lagos state said, he doesn't go for medical check-up because according to him, "I am okay, there is nothing wrong with me, I eat well and I exercise."
But the 60 year old man was shocked when he was told that his blood pressure was very high. President of the initiative, Dr. Peter Ogunnubi described him as, "a dead man walking. I was scared because I can't imagine someone with such a very high BP, reading more than 200 walking around and this man has never been diagnosed of being hypertensive and he has never being to the hospital to get checked."
Dr. Lotachukwu Kanu at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital, (UBTH), Benin, Edo state said, "Even if they have the time and money, they are not enlightened enough to know that it's important to go for medical check -up."
2. Lack of Money: An average Nigeria who lives on less than N150 per day might not bother to check his blood pressure that costs about N1000.
Presently, less than 6 per cent of Nigerians are covered by the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS). The scheme is expected to cover for basic and essential health services including access to diagnosis and treatment for hypertension, diabetes and other essential health services under a national health bill, which still awaits President Goodluck Jonathan's signature.
Dr. Kanu said, "majorly, Nigerians practice curative medicine, they are not engaged in preventive medicine. Nigeria is a poor nation, most Nigerians don't have enough money for the basic things like food or shelter and when the money comes, they buy food and get shelter. Medical examination is meant for preventive not curative since their money is limited, they think of spending on curative instead of preventive. Money for Nigeria is a common reason for lack of medical check-up especially among the average middle class Nigeria that hardly have enough money to take care of themselves."
Time: The busy road, the work hours in Nigeria, long queues at the hospital too can make many Nigerians choose not to go for medical check -up.
"Many Nigerians spend a long time at work, they don't have time for themselves and families. For example, an average civil servant don't have enough for medical check-up because he has to work from 7am--4pm. He wakes up in the morning and goes to work from 7-4pm not to talk of time on hold up or when he thinks of standing on a queue for medical examination," Kanu said.
Meanwhile, Governor of Niger state, Dr. Babangida Aliyu has directed the State Civil Service Commission to urgently develop an effective modality of conducting an annual medical check-up for the state’s work force.
This directive is a spontaneous response to the sudden death of Hajiya Bilkisu Mahmoud, a civil servant in Niger state, who allegedly slumped and died at the Specialist Hospital while on an assignment at the Government House, Minna.
Lack of Public Enlightenment/Fund: Even if Nigerians have the time and money, Daily Times gathered that, there is no much public enlightenment on the importance of regular medical check-up.
Kanu said, "We need more posters, bill boards, radio jingles, campaigns and support because some private sector and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) do free medical check up for people; but they still need more support so that more population can be reached especially in the rural areas, the working places.
"If they are funded, medical examinations would then not be expensive and be free in some cases. Some are involved in free medical check-up; I must admit, there are many organised free medical check-up in Nigeria but with the population in Nigeria, I don't think the number of free medical check-ups are enough. I think it's a few people doing the work of many people.
"We need a separate group of people for this work. We need more community health doctors and workers to be trained for medical examination in Nigeria."