Health

May 21, 2024

Family physicians push for greener cities to combat deforestation

• Offer free services to 200 Lagos residents

By Chioma Obinna

On this year’s World Family Doctor’s Day, the Society of Family Physicians of Nigeria, SOFPON, Lagos state chapter, has expressed concern over the continuous clearing of vegetation across communities in Nigeria, lamenting deforestation is stripping away vital natural defences against pollution and contributing to a rise in respiratory problems.

The Family Physicians who decried the possible devastating impact on health and the environment said these green spaces were vital for filtering air, regulating temperatures, and providing a healthy environment.

In an interview with Good Health Weekly  during a medical outreach to mark the Day and in honour of one of the pioneering members of SOFPON, the late Dr Adedokun, the Lagos Chairman of SOFPON, Dr. Sixtus Ozuomba, said this year’s theme: “Healthy Planet, Healthy People”  brings the focus to the society to understand the connection between having a healthy environment and healthy people.

His words: “These plants are our lungs. They take the carbon dioxide we breathe out and give us back life-giving oxygen. Without them, the air feels heavy and contributes to respiratory problems.”

 Ozuomba who is also a Consultant Family Physician linked the loss of vegetation to the rise in temperatures and a decline in air quality, adding that many people are feeling the brunt of the scorching sun and struggling to breathe due to increased pollution.

“The trees and bushes used to provide a cool breeze. Now, we’re left sweltering with no escape from the heat.”

He lamented that man in the guise of development, urbanisation, and civilisation, has dealt a heavy blow on the planet Earth.

The expert pointed to a multitude of factors contributing to air pollution, blaming the burning of fossil fuels, including firewood for cooking and industrial emissions from vehicles and generators, as major contributors to air pollution. He said the disruption of natural water flow is raising concerns about the overall environmental health.

To have a better environment, he advocated for a shift towards a more sustainable future through renewable energy sources like solar and wind power, along with a renewed commitment to waste reduction and recycling.

“We need healthy solutions, not just development at any cost. Renewable energy and responsible waste management are the way forward. It’s time to protect our environment and our health for a better tomorrow.”

He urged Nigerians to protect the environment and not hide under development urbanisation or civilisation.

“The heat is everywhere, abnormal even for the rainy season. The seasons are unpredictable now. This is a result of mankind’s assault on the environment, and it’s affecting everyone. We see a rise in diseases – not just COVID, but hidden ones resurfacing: Ebola, Lassa fever, and more. Animals lose their habitat due to clearing, forcing them closer to humans. They carry diseases that can spread to us. Protecting the environment is everyone’s business. A clean environment means healthy people.”

He said the medical outreach was organised to recognise the late Adedokun’s contributions to the training of residents, contributions to the development of family medicine in Nigeria, as well as his selfless service to develop the speciality of family medicine.

Ozuomba said no fewer than 200 residents have been attended to at the time of filing this report. The outreach offered free health education, counselling, consultations, distribution of medications, screening for diabetes and hypertension and metabolic diseases including overweight and obesity. It also provided free treatment for malaria and common diseases like arthritis among others.

Also speaking, SOFPON Welfare /Public Relation Officer, Dr Ayodeji Opeyemi, noted that World Family Doctors Day is celebrated every 19th of May, and this year’s theme is “Healthy Planet, Healthy People”.

Opeyemi added that the association will also be organising a tree-planting event to promote a healthy environment. Trees play a vital role by releasing oxygen we breathe and absorbing harmful carbon dioxide from the air.

Highlighting the importance of a healthy environment, Opeyemi announced a tree-planting initiative. This will be followed by a Continuing Medical Education, (CME) session at the Lagos State Island Maternity Centre, featuring expert discussions on environmental health.

She urged Nigerians to help keep and maintain a healthy environment by avoiding environmental pollution. “We should not contaminate our water. We should avoid littering the roads with dirty objects, pure water, nylons, and empty bottles. We should avoid as much as possible tree cutting planting trees. This will help us to maintain a healthy environment.”

Speaking, the Medical Director, of Able God Hospital, Ijesha, Dr Temitope Adedokun-Ayoude who is also the son of the late physician described the day as a day to raise awareness on the health-seeking behaviour of people as well as to make patients aware that they need to come to the hospital for their healthcare needs.

Adedokun-Ayoude said the hospital would keep the legacy his father left behind by ensuring quality care for the patients and ensuring they give back to society through medical outreaches. Expressing his gratitude to the SOFPON, he said: “It is a very fulfilling outreach. I would like to thank SOFPON very much for this opportunity. The patients are very happy and they would love to see more of this in future.”