By Chukwuma Ajakah
In pursuit of improved health for children, women and the larger society, Anirejuoritse Chima-Oduko (MBBS, MPH), a medical doctor and public health professional has evolved a new strategy for providing health education and preventive health care in her book, Healthy Kids Are Happy Kids. The book published in Nigeria by Kraft Books Ltd was presented to the public at the Terrakulture Cultural Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos, on Saturday, 16 November, 2019. Healthy Kids Are Happy Kids is uniquely crafted and presented in a child-friendly narrative style that endears it to children who are first captivated by its story-telling form, characterization and emotive expressions.
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Anire Chima-Oduko read medicine and surgery at Igbinedion University, Okada and holds a masters of public health education (MPH) degree of Northumbria Newcastle, UK. Her passion in quality healthcare transcends the boundaries of general and primary health care physician’s practice, as she also actively engages in advocacy campaigns. Speaking on her motivation, she says “This book on health education for children is written as a story so that children can enjoy it. If you can catch children early, you can determine the course of their lives as you teach them healthy living habits. I plan to begin a school health programme that will show a lot of interventions that schools can do.” Anirejuoritse explains that she intends to partner with schools to provide health education for children, parents and teachers. She implores well meaning Nigerians to support the initiative. As a pointer to where the author is headed, the book launch featured diverse presentations from both care-givers and children.
The Chief Launcher, Barrister Victor Eburajolo, Deputy Group Managing Director Kelwalram Chanrai Group, used the occasion to admonish parents on the nurturing of their wards, “Make your children your friends. You will be surprised they will discuss with you what they will ordinarily not talk with you about. What kind of child are you going to leave behind for your community? Those that send their children abroad should be careful. Once the child is up to 16, most of the schools will only communicate with you on what the child permits them to.’
The Guest Speaker, Mrs. Lilian N. Akuma, Proprietor of The Cedars World Nursery and Primary School, Surulere, spoke on intentional parenting. “We as parents need to rethink on our parenting style. If there is a time to be deliberate about how we want our children to end up, it is now. We need to understand ourselves and the children. When the scriptures talk of us giving account it is not only about our works. Children are God’s heritage. We are custodians. If there are values you want to see in the children, you must be deliberate to instill such values in them. They don’t just turn out good”. Mrs Akuma observed that many parents are too busy to have time to be intentional with their children and implored them to “Create and dedicate time for them. One of the ways we can be intentional is to introduce a schedule, a routine, including their work and what they eat”.
According to Mrs Farida Ladipo-Ajayi, the book reviewer, and Founder of the Bookworm Café, “The book is a must have resource of children’s libraries at home and school. It covers important topics on children’s health. It encourages children to live healthy lifestyles, using fun stories told by health champions”.
Another reviewer, Mrs April Attah, a consultant and homemaker remarked, “The book is for both adults and children. It is child friendly because of the colours. Chapters 4 and 6 stand out for me. I particularly like these chapters because of how they present issues of public concern such as brushing of teeth, good and bad touches from the child’s point of view”.
The author presents the story through fictive characters: Ola, Chima, Aisha, Scout Yemi and Toju, the Happy Princess from whose narrative point of view, she is able to capture and relate childhood fantasies embedded with crucial health lessons. Health enhancing nuggets ranging from healthy eating habits to physical health exercises are explored in Healthy Kids are Happy Kids. The book conveys expert opinion on health without encumbering the reader with medical jargons.
The author adopts the first person narrative technique in presenting each of the 6 chapters. Every chapter is aptly subtitled to reflect a given subject matter which is illustrated with pictures. In Chapter 1, the narrator introduces herself as, “Doc Anire” and explains why she wants the reader to live healthy. In subsequent chapters, the narrator assumes the role of an observer, but makes occasional comments while the characters tell their stories. The author summarizes the story using the narrators’ parting shot captioned, “A Goodbye Note from the Health Champions” to evaluate the readers, “Friends, did you enjoy going through our wonderful world of health? We hope you had fun and learnt something too. We hope you will practise what you learnt”.