Owing to the high prevalence of malnutrition in developing countries, which affects one in three hospitalized patients, and is also responsible for nearly half of all child deaths under five, medical experts have urged the Federal Government of Nigeria to include clinical nutritional products in the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).
The experts, which included nutritionists, dietitians, and cardiologists, also identified the exorbitant prices of nutritional products in the country, as well as the paucity of dietitians and nutritionists in government hospitals, as significant barriers to adequate nutrition for the Nigerian populace. They thus called for the employment of more dietitians and nutritionists to fill the gaps.
The calls were contained in a communique jointly signed by Dr Teresa Isichei Pounds and Professor Azuka Oparah, president and secretary, respectively, West African Society for Parenteral & Enteral Nutrition (WASPEN). The statement was issued at the end of the recent inaugural clinical conference of the Society, held at the Musa Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja, Nigeria.
The gathering, which was attended by governmental and nongovernmental dignitaries and interdisciplinary healthcare professionals, was themed, “Embracing Nutrition Care for All: Promoting Awareness and Interdisciplinary Intervention”, with sub-themes, such as “Nutrition and Human Rights” “Current Concepts in Nutrition Support in the Healthcare System” and “Nutrition Assessment Update”.
While averring that nutritional care is at the intersection of the right to food and the right to health, the experts charged governments at all levels to create opportunities for the implementation of rights-based legislation, policies, regulations, and programs for its realization.
Calling for nutrition screening in healthcare settings to facilitate early identification of malnutrition and prompt interventions, the professionals urged hospitals to establish interdisciplinary nutrition support teams and develop protocols for their specialized nutrition consults.
The communique read in part, “Conference notes the unacceptably high prevalence of malnutrition in developing countries as it affects 1 in 3 patients admitted to the hospital and among patients that were not malnourished upon admission, 1 in 3 are likely to become malnourished. Furthermore, malnutrition is a known underlying cause of nearly half of all child deaths under five.
“There is a persistent low awareness of the impact of malnutrition on disease and its treatment, so clinician education, research, and interdisciplinary collaboration are required to raise awareness and timely interventions.
“Conference reechoes the need for interdisciplinary collaboration among health workforce to optimally address malnutrition problems among hospital and community-dwelling patients.
“Conference urges healthcare facilities to prioritize the availability of affordable specialized nutrition products to optimize patient care.”
The experts also commended the Federal Ministry of Health, under the leadership of Dr. Osagie Ehanire, for integrating nutrition as a component of reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, adolescent, and elderly care.
In the same vein, they applauded the Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen, for her involvement in the Accelerating Nutrition Result in Nigeria (ANRiN), project geared towards addressing malnutrition among vulnerable women and children.
Dignitaries at the conference included Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, who formally declared the conference open; Hon. (Dr) Abike Dabiri-Erewa, chairman/CEO of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission was represented by Hajiya Jummai Usman Musa; Dr. Leo Egbujiobi, an interventional cardiologist, Beloit Memorial Hospital USA rendered the keynote address; Professor Diana Cardenas Braz of Universidad El Bosque, Colombia; Dr. Adekemi Adejare, a clinical dietitian, Comfort Nutrition Services and Inspira Health Network, USA and Honorable Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen represented by Mrs. Ucha Uzunma Kalu; Honorary Consul for Parkistan, Pharm. Ahmed Ibrahim Yakasai as well as representatives of the DG NAFDAC, DG NIPRID, and President, PSN, among others