By Kemi Yesufu
Health correspondents under the auspices of the Association of Nigerian Health Journalists (ANHEJ) have decried the continued culture of out-of-pocket payment for health services.
Rising from its annual national conference, the association tasked the states and the Federal Government to prioritise the provision of health insurance for majority of the country’s populace.
ANHEJ in a communiqué issued at the end of its conference held in Abuja on November 28, stressed the importance of wider health insurance coverage to reducing infant and maternal mortality as well as improving the country’s health indices.
The 2019 edition of the conference had at its theme: “Nigeria’s increasing population—Any hope to achieving UHC and SDG 3?”
For its members, the association charged them to improve on the number of investigative stories published as it is the duty of the media to hold government accountable to the public.
The theme for the 2019 conference was “Nigeria’s increasing population—Any hope to achieving UHC and SDG 3?”. It was delivered by Dr. Gafar Alawode, Country Director, HP+.
On the issue of Nigeria’s growing population with outstrips its economic growth, ANHEJ advised government to make quality health services available to majority of Nigerians through health insurance, as this would greatly improve child survival which will in turn instill a higher level of confidence for having lesser number of children.
Please read communiqué bellow:
COMMUNIQUE ISSUED AT THE END OF 3RD ANNUAL NATIONAL CONFERENCE HELD BY THE ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIAN HEALTH JOURNALISTS (ANHEJ) ON 28 NOVENBER 2019, AT THE ZUMA HALL OF ROCKVIEW ROYALE HOTEL, ABUJA.
The Association of Nigerian Health Journalists, (ANHEJ) held its third annual conference at Rockview Royale on Thursday, November 28, 2019.
The ANHEJ conference is aimed at galvanizing ideas and workable solutions for the growth of the sector.
Other subthemes discussed include
1, Understanding the economic impact of child malnutrition, which was delivered by Chief (Mrs) Moji Makanjuola, Executive Director, ISMPH..
- Strategic media advocacy for Basic Health Care Provision Fund. Dr. Aminu Magashi, Board Chairman, CHR presented this.
- Nigeria’s commitment at ICPD Nairobi conference: What is the role of the media. Presented by Dr. Ejike Orji of AAFP
- Universal access to contraceptives, pertinent to achieving SDG3- presented by Effiom Nyong Effiom , Country Director, Marie Stopes Nigeria.
The conference had in attendance the Hon. Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, former Minister of Health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu, other participants at the conference included; Chairman House Committee on Health, Dr. Tanko Sununu; Keynote Speaker, Dr. Gafar Alawode and many other dignitaries. Some organisations including ISMPH, NPoPC, NIPRD and NYC4UHC were also represented.
The following key issues surrounding the theme and subthemes were deeply discussed.
- Benchmarks and targets should be set during conferences to measure the level of progress after each conference, serving as progress monitor
- Journalists must not relent in holding government accountable, regardless of the level of familiarity that exists between the Association and MDAs
- Health journalists must equip themselves with requisite knowledge to effectively engage administrators and practitioners on issues of health systems development in the country
- The BHCPF has been cut down from the original formular with about ten billion naira reduction in 2020 due to non-spending of the allocated funds; there is a need for journalists to question reasons for none utilization of allocated funds
- Investigative reports geared towards unraveling the extent of service improvement since the implementation of the BHCPF
- Journalists should specifically engage health administrators to find out the extent of implementation of proposed purchase of ambulances and strategic construction of primary health centres on highways as stipulated in the BHCPF policy
- The National Health Insurance Agency should be regularly engaged to unravel the extent of Universal Health Coverage
- Implementation of the BHCPF should not be an issue after the Act backing it has been signed, it is only so because of some individuals are committed to circumventing to law for their selfish benefits to the detriment of the health of Nigerians
- If Nigerians would replicate the energy exuded during the fight to end Ebola in Nigeria, reversing the horrible health indices in Nigeria will be reversed in no time
- Government must ensure that modern contraceptives are made available to all sexually active teenage and adult Nigerians requiring it
- Nigeria should reduce fertility rate through legislations and reduction in child mortality. When women are assured of the survival of their young, then they will not have the need to give birth to many children as a backup mechanism
- The midwifery service scheme must be strengthened and sustained considering its role in reducing child mortality before the scheme was bastardised.
- Government should increase annual allocation from 3 to 4 million dollars; implement revised national Blueprint Scale-up Plan for family planning for improved funding for family planning commodities and consumables; implement age appropriate SRH information, counselling and services for adolescents and youths
- Journalists covering the health sector must ignite the spirit of investigative journalism so as to unravel the many short comings of the sector.
- Health journalists vowed to work closely with the government and other stakeholders for the improvement of the health of Nigerians.
- Many Nigerians are suffering severe hardship due to out of pocket payment for health services.
- The Federal Government was charged to fashion out workable modalities to ensure that more Nigerians are covered by health insurance for easy access to health services.
- There is the need to scale up policy thrusts that will improve health insurance coverage and subsequently reduce mortality rates and improve child survival.
- Scaling up existing policy thrusts that will improve health insurance coverage and subsequently reduce mortality rates and improve survival e.g. SSHIS, BHCPF
- More investment in the health and reduced inefficiencies in health system and raise the accountability bar
- Education and empowerment of more women which would engender delayed marriage, childbirth and increase uptake of family planning
- We need to demonstrate leadership needed to promote inter-sectoral collaboration approach to build Human Capital Development
- The media need to put health on the political front burner and health scorecard should form an important basis for electing people to public offices and yardstick for measuring their performance
- The media will work closely with the legislature, MDAs and CSOs in the health sector to ensure that existing policies and programmes are assiduously implemented towards increasing child survival, decreasing maternal mortality, ending child marriage, improved PHCs and other healthcare services, increased access to health services by increasing the NHIS coverage which abysmally stands presently at 5%.
- The health journalists vowed to hold government accountable to ensure that before the next conference, concerned departments of government must be seen to have built PHCs and deployed ambulances along strategic points on the highways as contained in the BHCPF implementation document, among other targets.
Some exceptional Nigerians who contributed immensely to the growth and development of the health sector over the years were given awards. Many others have been penciled for the award in our next conference.
Those who received the awards include for the former Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, Chief (Mrs) Moji Makanjuola, Dr. Lovett Lawson, Dr. Godswill Okara, Prof. Oladapo Ladipo, Godwin Odemijie and Iliance Hospital, Abuja. Two awardees where however, absent. They are-Dr. Faisal Shuaib, Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency and Kelina Hospital.
Organisations that supported the conference include ISMPH, CHR, MHWUN, NMA, ARFH, Marie Stopes, Nigeria, Sir Emeka Offor Foundation and Dr. Hassan Hospital.