By Sola Ogundipe
HEALTH experts have said millions of Nigerians are not living for long or living well as a result of a combination of factors ranging from high burden of illnesses, illiteracy, corruption and poverty, among others.
The experts who expressed worry over the low life expectancy ratio in Africa as a whole and Nigeria in particular, however said life expectancy in the continent could be improved through availability of top-quality and affordable healthcare.
An endocrinologist and diabetes expert, Dr. John Ahukannah, identified high unemployment rate, ill health, poverty, deaths from preventable causes, illiteracy, high corruption, among others, as top factors responsible for low life expectancy ratio in Nigeria and Africa as a whole.
Ahukannah,who is Abia State Commissioner for Health,noted that other factors including non- affordability of hospital bills, negatively affect the grade of health facilities patronised in the country.
In a presentation entitled: Improving Life Expectancy in Africa, Ahukannah said various reasons life expectancy has remained low in Nigeria included sickness which at 26 percent and poverty, 24 percent.
Citing the NOIPolls, a country-specific polling service in the West African region, Ahukannah said Nigeria’s life expectancy at birth as at 2015 stood at 53 for males and 56 for females, making it one of the lowest rankings in the world.
Quoting data from the NOI Polls, he said other causes include: motor accident, sixteen percent; natural death, six percent; stress, five percent; high blood pressure five percent; poor medical care, three percent; bad lifestyle, two percent; high cost of living, two percent; sin against God, five percent; crime, five percent; negligence, five percent and others, two percent.
“Forty five percent of the population has no access to clean water in Africa. It is not surprising that we have a lot of diarrhoea and water-borne diseases.”
He said government’s poor economics seems to play quite a huge role in the low life expectancy of Africans, and that many African countries are poor and unable to build and maintain standard facilities that patients can access.
“In Nigeria, for example, we do have issues of salaries not being paid on time and if you don’t have money in your pocket you probably will not be able to access quality medical care.
“Second point is the high corruption index in Africa. I’m not saying there is no corruption globally but the index in Africa is quite high. What this means is that financial aids do not get to those who need them and money for development ends up in private hands.
“Unemployment rate is also high. A man who has no job or money, when sick, will first of all go to a prayer house or chemist before approaching a pharmacy or hospital.
“All he’s trying to do is to cut cost because he has no money. Unemployment also affects the grade of hospital patronised.”
Further, Ahukanna, who spoke at the formal launch of a new pharmaceutical company, St. Racheal’s Pharma, and its collection of antibiotics, identified, widespread HIV infection; famines, personal behaviours such as excessive smoking and lack of physical activity as factors that limit life expectancy in Nigeria and Africa.
“The level of education also seems to affect the life expectancy in any given region of the world. It is said that high literacy rates are associated with improved life expectancy. Education obviously augments labour market productivity and income growth,” he added.
To increase life expectancy rate, he said government must provide quality health care policies and think of sustainable healthcare financing.
“Another thing is strengthening our Primary Health Centre, PHC, to be able to serve our population. Then free and affordable education at least secondary level (while government should) increase job creation, employment opportunities, minimum wage for workers, and then (address the) stabilisation of the country’s micro and macro economy,” he proffered.
Speaking on the need to ensure the prescription, dispensing and administration of affordable, qualitative and accessible phamaceutical products, the Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, of St. Racheal’s Pharma, Mr. Akinjide Adeosun, who spoke on a topic entitled All Things Are Possible, said the company’s quest is to improve life expectancy through the availability of top-quality affordable pharmaceuticals in Africa.
“St. Racheal’s Pharma is aligned to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) 3- good health and well-being and 4-quality education.
“All things are indeed possible, if we tune, align and believe ‘I am possible (Impossible)’. It is our desire to ensure Nigerians live long and businesses outlive their founders. My message to young Nigerians today is: There is no short cut to hard work,” he said.
The founder and Managing Director of Jay Kay Pharmaceutical and Chemical Company Limited, Mr. Jimi Agbaje, noted that life expectancy before 2000 was really low but has improved and more or less doubled.
“That’s the beauty of having affordable brands which St Racheal’s has put forward as seen today, in terms of improving life expectancy in Africa, using quality pharmaceuticals that is affordable and so there is no reason why I would not be part of this.”
The launch witnessed a fusion of Science, Entertainment and Art. An interactive, Turning Point Technology was deployed to enhance recall of key learnings by healthcare practitioners during the event.
The unveiling was done following presentation of reports of pharmacokinetic studies carried out by Lyrus Life Sciences by West Africa’s first female professor of Pharmacy and former Dean, School of Pharmacy, University of Lagos, Prof. Cecilia Igwilo and a Senior Lecturer, Pharmacology, Therapeutics and Internal Medicne, Lagos State College of Medicine, LASUCOM, and Consultant Physician, Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, LASUTH, Dr. Olayinka Ogunleye.
Both speakers confirmed efficacy, safety and tolerability of three brand of St. Racheal’s Amoxicillin/Clavulanic acid 625mg tab, Amoxicillin/Cloxacillin 500mg capsule and Cefuroxime 250mg tablet adding that they are bio equivalent with innovator brands from a multinational company.
According to data from World Health rankings put together by the World Health Organisation, WHO, World Bank and the UNFPA, Nigeria’s life expectancy by age at birth is 53.4 for males and 55.6 (female), per 100,000 population Males and females are rated 177th in the world.
At age 25, a Nigerian’s life expectancy is 64.3 (male) and 65.9 (female), rated 174th and 178th respectively. At age 50, life expectancy for males is 70.8 (176th) and 71.9 for females (181st).
Between independence in 1960 and 2015, Nigeria’s average life expectancy rose from 38.7 to 54.5.
Nigeria’s life expectancy by age at birth is 53.4 for males and 55.6 (female). Both are rated at 177th in the world.
Among the nation’s top causes of death and low life expectancy are influenza and neumonia (15.22 percent); HIV/AIDS, 11.40 percent; malaria, 9.47 percent; diarrhoeal diseases, 6.85 percent, and Low Birth Weight 5.17 percent.
TOP 20 CAUSES OF DEATH IN NIGERIA
Influenza and Pneumonia 15.22%
Diarrhoeal diseases 6.85%
Low Birth Weight 5.17%
Birth Trauma 4.68%
Coronary Heart Disease 2.82%
Road Traffic Accidents 2.71%
Maternal Conditions 2.13%
Liver Disease 1.96%
Violence 1.78 %
Diabetes Mellitus 1.68%
Other Injuries 1.62%
Congenital Anomalies 1.43%
– Source: World Health Rankings