PHAAE approach to reducing health disparities in Nigeria

By Uc-Okonmah

I, like many others, have made a pledge to living healthier this year. I am set on to find and eat a new fruit and vegetable each month, eat lots of salads, decrease my consumption of meat to a few times a week, and drink at least a half-gallon of water each day. I also plan to laugh more and spend more time outdoors. My personal goals aside, I also find myself more hopeful than at the start of many past years about the state of health in our nation as a whole.

More Nigerians than ever are having access to healthcare thanks to the voices of advocates.

States throughout the nation are making significant progress in helping all kids to be immunized.

These brilliant spots indicate that Nigeria is heading down the road to better health—but they only begin to address the challenges many Nigerians continue to face in accessing good health. Significant gaps and unmet needs remain.

In very plain, easy to understand terms, Health Equity is when everyone (young or old, rich or poor, educated or not educated) has the opportunity to be as healthy as possible. Nigeria benefits when everyone has the opportunity to live a long, healthy and productive life, yet health disparities persist. A health disparity is a difference in health outcomes across subgroups of the population. Health disparities are often linked to social, economic and environmental disadvantages (e.g less access to good jobs, unsafe neighbourhoods, lack of affordable transportation options).

Unfortunately, this is a reality we at the PHAAE Organization understand all too well. We know that if you are poor, you are 21 percent or more likely to die from heart disease than if you are rich. If you live in the “ghetto” your life is an average of three years shorter than if you live in other high brow areas. And if you live below the poverty line, you are 25 percent more likely than higher-income Nigerians to develop hypertension.

‘’ Of All Forms of Inequality, Injustice in Health is the Most Shocking and Inhuman’’​

Martin Luther King (Jnr)​

Health disparities like these not only affect the day-to-day experiences of individuals, but also threaten the prosperity and well-being of entire communities. They can be experienced between ethnic groups, income groups, and regions of our nation. And while the greatest impact of health disparities unquestionably falls on those directly affected, no one is immune: these inequities hurt all of us.

It is through this lens that PHAAE Organization will approach its work this year. We are specifically targeting the elimination of these all-encompassing gaps in health to give everyone in our country an equal opportunity to live a healthier life by giving the right health information.

Fortunately, we are not starting from scratch. Since 2015, PHAAE has invested all her time to address disparities across the health backdrop. And last year, we introduced a new goal for PHAAE and the nation: to reduce and eliminate heath disparities thereby achieving health equity and the result of this will be building a strong, vibrant health culture enabling all in our diverse society to lead healthier lives, now and for generations to come.

Eliminating health disparities is a bold and ambitious goal, but we believe it is both achievable and necessary to ensure the health and prosperity of our nation. Our new efforts will drive in the disparities lens in all that we do, and connect the dots between investments so that our work—and the work of our allies—go further to strengthen the programs, institutions, and resources that improve the well-being of all people.

We will go beyond quality and access to health care to dig deeper into the factors and social determinants that research proves impact a person’s health—the neighbourhoods we live in, the schools our children attend, the jobs we work, and the resources inside our communities.

We will then reach out to youth leaders, parents, and community advocates who have long supported health equity to identify new opportunities to tackle the systemic issues that impact a person’s well-being. We will also seek out business leaders, government officials, and organizations who can help us leverage these existing systems and institutions so we can help improve overall health for all.

Most of all, our efforts will help build awareness among all the systems that impact health to provide people the tools and resources they need to be healthy. This work will be an integral part of our mission to build a Health culture that enables everyone to make healthy choices where they live, work, and play, no matter their demographic or social status.

In the next five years, we hope to take significant steps toward achieving our vision by helping make the movement for health equity broader than it is today. With greater participation from private industry, policymakers, and individuals whose life experiences reflect the disparities we aim to eliminate, we expect the nation to achieve even greater accomplishments in the next decade.

Sincerely Yours,