Stake holders Advocate Safety and Security of Older Adults,Adequate Health Care_Ada Nkong

The need to ensure security and safety of older persons has been emphasized. The Executive Director Dave Omokaro foundation, Dr Emem Omokaro said this during a webinar on Nigerian Response to healthcare for older adults with focus on traditional complementary and alternative medicine organized by the Federal Ministry of Health.
The theme of the Webinar is Nigerian Response to Health Care for Older Adults with Focus on Traditional Complementary and Alternate Medicine (TCAM).
Full Text of Speech
I bring this good will message on behalf of the Dave Omokaro Foundation, Gerontology Association of Nigeria and the Stakeholder Group on Ageing Africa. We are a coalition of multi-disciplinary and multi-sectoral experts in ageing, building capacity, promoting research and data production and influencing policy and programs in collaboration with government Ministries and Agencies on behalf of the constituents of older persons. I wish to appreciate the Hon. Minister of State, Senator Olurunimbe Mamora and, the entire team in the Federal Ministry of Health, for the good intent for older persons and, the strategic Plan developed for Geriatric health using HEPIQ-C, as the Special Purpose Vehicle.

We have closely followed the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, the containment and mitigation initiatives, both pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical and the role of the Federal Ministry of Health. We appreciate your commitment. As we know, COVID -19 is now the magnifying lens by which we view the deepening inequality, exclusion and poverty of older persons, in all aspects – hence the very low quality of life and well-being.

The theme of this webinair, Nigerian Response to Health Care for Older Adults with Focus on Traditional Complementary and Alternate Medicine (TCAM) is of significance to the Gerontology Association of Nigeria and SGA Africa and so we wish to encourage FMOH by highlighting, two domains of concern in this regard- which could be addressed under the theme:
1). Firstly, a high number of older persons utilize Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicine.- Pharmaceutical Care and Safety Index given older person’s Co-morbidities and compromised immunity

Research has confirmed that older people’s patronage of hospitals, clinics or health Centers either government or private owned is low. They rather prefer to present illnesses in chemist or drug stores where auxiliary pharmacy assistant have little training on prescribed drug and are likely to prescribe wrongly or sell expired drugs. They also prefer to present illnesses to traditional, Complementary and Alternative medical /herbal practitioners. This is a reflection of low accessibility and utilization of health care in Nigeria among this population. The effect of high cost of treatment and rural-urban differential were demonstrated in the study

It is important to ensure security and safety of older persons in terms of access to quality healthcare, It is critical to determine traditional and complementary and alternative medicine safety, in spite of the profound therapeutic advantages possessed by the by medicinal plants. There is need to ascertain that the profound therapeutic advantages possessed by medicinal plants, some of their constituents are clearly shown not to be potentially toxic.

Ministry of Health should coordinate with other stakholders to consider the socio-economic determinant of health the higher risks confronted by older people in the COVID-19 pandemic. Identify and consider their needs at all levels of health systems
Mitigate vulnerabilities of older persons which is precipitated by negative physical, and mental health effects
End Prejudice and discriminations which are barriers to social inclusion in services- Grant communities opportunities to access primary care and referral services.

1.1).Revamp the Primary Health Care to tackle access and affordability issues
Improve community health education through extension health workers
Provide adequate training and deployment of community health workers to bridge the hhealth force gaps in communities
Address the double burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases and mental health
1.2) Implement the Universal Health Coverage ; Barriers to health care are the lack of health coverage and the insensitivity of the Primary health care within communities to community promotion and preventive care. With the descaling of health and social services due to the lock down, more restrictions have been placed on health care.

1.3) Develop a hybrid model of Long Term Care and Social: Support Older persons with dementias and other cognitive impairment who are facing a harrowing time. No specific elder –specific protocol have been put in place for the geriatrics.
Reform health and insurance systems to reach individuals in the informal sector have become a priority. Develop Framework for Formal Home and Community Care

2) A high Number of Older Persons are Traditional, Complementary and Traditional Medical Practitioners- Opportunity to harness the skills, traditional skills, wisdom and knowledge of older persons most of who reside in the rural areas.

The future of traditional medicine is bright if viewed in the context of inclusion and participation and life link transfers to the youth. Opportunities for older persons in service provision,- applying their knowledge and expertise and serving their community / increase of health care coverage, economic potential, and poverty reduction.

People have varying opinion of traditional medicine, most of it not positive due to stereotypes, and the complexity of determining the safety and efficacy unlike conventional pharmaceuticals. The traditional healer provides health care services based on culture, religious background, knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs that are prevalent in his community. It is in some cases, believed to involve, divination, spiritualism, and herbalism, and, shrouded with much secrecy, with few reports or documentations of adverse reactions, so it becomes controversial. We believe that FMOH can build capacity, harmonize attitudes about this specialty and integrate it as part of a holistic health care system through policy and proper regulation.

3). We hope the discussions and recommendations from the webinars, will help Federal Ministry of Health to harmonize the varying opinions on traditional medicine
We hope to see the establishment of the safety index of traditional, complementary and alternative herbal medical use in Nigeria through consultancy, policy and regulations and licensing practitioners.

Dr. Emem Omokaro
Executive Director , Dave Omokaro Foundation
President , Gerontology Association of Nigeria
Convener and Co-chair, Stakeholder Group on Ageing Africa

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