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UNDERSTANDING PREVENTIVE HEALTH

UNDERSTANDING PREVENTIVE HEALTH

As a child growing up in a fairly remote village, I followed my mum a couple of times to the local maternity centre at the delivery of my younger ones for routine child immunization. One thing I noticed which I clearly remember till date is mothers giving their babies Paracetamol syrup prior to their baby’s immunization. I watched with so much curiosity with many questions in my mind but I was too little and naive to voice say these things out yet I lived with them for years.

When I started my career in 1997 in the hospital, I saw it happen again and I asked a Matron colleague of mine who took time to explain to me. It was then I realised, mothers actually give this medication prior to immunization to prevent their babies from having high temperature. I was so amazed when I imagined the level of awareness and poor educational levels of those women I saw in the village. What these mothers were involved in can be relatively seen as a preventive health approach to health (proactively preventing increased body temperature in infants). It simply means taking proactive actions to prevent possible ill health, sickness or disease before it comes.

What those mothers understood even in that poorly informed level is that their babies can avoid the pain of suffering from high body temperature if they are given paracetamol prior to vaccination. My question is why couldn’t the mothers leave the babies to just take the vaccines without necessarily giving them those medications? Even the Mothers need peace of mind. When their children suffer from increased body temperature, the mothers also suffer discomfort.

This was just to build a foundation on what this column will be focused on within the time or period we have at our disposal. Preventive health is indeed the new frontier in healthcare delivery; it is the new world order in both saving healthcare cost and achieving improved healthcare outcomes. We grew up to meet our healthcare professionals enjoying the conventional curative clinical care, the business the health professionals had with patients was just to listen to patients’ complains, examine their physical clinical presentations and either recommend them for further laboratory investigation or outright drug prescription.

In modern day healthcare services, the complexion of healthcare delivery has greatly changed even the treatment pattern. The focus now is overall wellness, wholeness of body, mind and soul. This is where interaction and patient engagement has placed patients at the centre of quality healthcare delivery team. The rule is, we do not want you to be sick before you come to your healthcare professionals, even when you have questions, go to them and seek medical clarifications.

There used to be a level of reserved disposition among practitioners towards patients, but this has long changed because we must talk with our patients, answer their questions and clarify bothering medical issues they may have in their mind.

The role of the healthcare professionals have transcended beyond just caregiving but to health education, health awareness and health promotion. The patient needs to get informed, the patient needs to know what to do to maintain good health, he needs to know the food type suitable to maintaining good health and possible ways to modify life style in the midst of available health risk exposure.

Preventive health has been recommended as the most cost effective form of healthcare delivery. Let’s look at Hepatitis B which is a viral disease that has a violent effect on the liver, you will agree with me that it is easier, safer and most cost effective for us to get an early screening and take the vaccination if we come out negative. The highest cost you may get this screening and the three course vaccination will be between N5, 000.00 – N7, 500.00, but the average cost of having a six-month treatment outside the pre-treatment test falls within the neighbourhood of N500, 000.00 – N750, 000.00. There is no guaranty that the virus will be totally out within this six months, you might need about a year, two years, 6 years or longer therapy to totally get rid of this viral infection.  What this tells us is that the cost of immunising yourself against Hepatitis B virus is just 1% of the cost of having a six-month therapy.

In any balances you may weigh this from; it makes a whole lot of economic sense to embrace Preventive health in our overall quest to maintaining an improved and quality life style. Curative Medicine is still very much in practice and in use but we need to free spaces in our healthcare facilities through Preventive Health approaches to allow those who really need those clinical environments access to curative care as recommended.

Organisations, families, governments and health insurers are financially bleeding in their health funds because of the sole reason of waiting till we get really sick before we seek medical help. This is wrong; we need to seek Medical help in form of Medical advice even when we are not sick. We need to have thorough engagement will our healthcare providers, if they are not talking to us or providing answers to our questions they cannot be the kind of healthcare providers we really need.

The most important approach to healthcare delivery in 21st century is “Caregiver-Patient Engagement”. This has another twist is preventing medical errors and ensuring patients safety.

We will be looking at most of these issues in details as time permits us subsequently. Stay glued to us here, we will surely be back.

Ehi Iden

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