A university lecturer, Dr Henry Sawyer, said that preventive medicine was an effective tool in the control of infectious diseases and reduction of disease outbreaks.
Sawyer, the Dean, Faculty of Ecological Environment and Toxicology, Kwara State University, Malete, made the assertion while delivering his keynote address at the maiden conference of West African Postgraduate College of Environmental Health (WAPECH).
The dean said that the relegation of preventive medicine to the background has had negative impact on the nation’s healthcare delivery.
He said that many healthy based challenges have been linked to the environment with growing evidence that suggests how well the environment dictates how well the populace becomes.
Sawyer, citing reported cases of Lassa Fever and lead poisoning in some states, said the neglect of environmental health services made communities less resilient to the emergence of infectious diseases and natural disasters.
“You cannot relegate preventive medicine to the background and expect to have a qualitative healthcare delivery system.
“The influence of the environment on the outbreak and transmission of diseases, including vector-borne diseases like malaria cannot be overlooked or undermined.
“Climate change, as an example, has substantial impact on an already vulnerable population; changes in rainfall pattern can increase the burden of water-borne diseases.
“Environmental health services is of huge significance to public health strategies; environmental approaches help to reduce disease outbreak,” he said.
Sawyer added that there is a need for research to explore how policies of health, environment and development can best be aligned and improve understanding of environmental drivers of infectious disease.
He urged environmental health professionals to build strong relationship with local communities and officials that would help drive relevant policy decisions.
“Environmental health professionals are practicing in unprecedented times; improving environmental health services and developing the environmental health profession is important to prevent adverse environmental exposure and health consequences,” he said.
In his opening remarks, the Director General, West African Health Organization, Dr Xavier Crespin, said that the growing shortage of skilled health workers negatively affect healthcare delivery in the region.
Crespin, represented by Dr Olugbenga Olorunda, said that challenges like political crisis, poor working conditions and incentives, as well as outdated regulations have resulted in serious brain drain of skilled health staff.
“It is crucial that for more rapid changes to take place in the health sector, it must be accompanied by appropriate measures for developing human resources for health and supporting institutions.
“WAPECH was established at a critical period when there is need for harmonization of global and regional policies for the development of training of environmental health professionals,” he said.
Dr Sunday Ojewale, the Secretary General, WAPECH, said that environmental health as a formidable profession in the health industry must be given priority.
Source: The Nigerian Tribune