Adetoun Mustapha, adjunct researcher at the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research Council for Africa has advocated more funding for African-led studies, capacity building for researchers, and policymakers to bridge the gap in the continent’s environmental health issues.
Mustapha, speaking on the topic; “Closing the Research and Policy gap to address Environmental Health Challenges in Africa”, at the sixth Nigerian Conference of the International Medical Geologists Association (IMGA-Nigeria) organised by the Department of Geosciences, Faculty of Science, University of Lagos, argued that some deliberate steps must be taken to close the research and policy gap in environmental health.
“There is a need for more research funding for African-led studies, and capacity building for researchers, policy makers and other stakeholders,” she said.
She frowned at the reality that research about Africa and its environment, health and other related issues are mainly driven by international institutions and western NGOs with minimal involvement of lower levels of government and local academic institutions.
Other challenges she pointed out include lack of robust data on air quality and other human exposure data, difficulty in conducting environmental health research, and slow pace of translating research findings to improve public health.
Mustapha called on stakeholders to make concerted efforts in addressing these environmental challenges. She said that about 23 percent of the burden of disease in Africa is accounted for by environmental risks.
“Africans have access to less water than the global average and scarcity is increasing in many regions. Lack of access to adequate clean water, sanitation and hygiene accounts for 10 percent of disease burden,” she noted.
The adjunct researcher at International Society for Environmental Epidemiology (ISEE), aligns with the WHO 2016 report that shows 23 percent of premature deaths are attributable to unhealthy environments, 20 percent of cancers, 31percent of cardiovascular diseases, 31 percent of chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, and 44 percent of asthma cases are associated with air pollution, tobacco smoke and chemicals.
To unravel this, she maintained that fostering collaborative research will enable researchers and decision-makers to glean new insights and develop robust environmental health interventions and policies for improved population health in Africa.
Mary Odukoya, the IMGA chair in her address at the event held inside Arthur Mbanefo Digital Research Centre in the Akoka main campus of UNILAG, expressed her delight to hosting the sixth conference of the body themed: “Discerning the Unknown: Establishing the Link between Health and the Environment.”
According to Odukoya, “The primary aim of the association is to increase awareness among scientists, medical specialists and the general public on the importance of geological factors for health and wellbeing.
It was recognized that the limited extent of cooperation and communication among these groups restricted the ability of scientists and public health workers to solve a range of complex environmental health problems.”
Buttressing the fact that living entities depend upon their environment for every requirement necessary for life, she stressed the fact that people cannot afford to toy with the sanitation of their environments.
Quoting the popular IMGA saying; “All substances are poisons, there is none which is not a poison. Only the dose differentiates a poison and a remedy,” she wished for all happy deliberations.
Akinade Olatunji, the president of NMGS in his address said the theme of the IMGA conference 2023, is a further testament of its determination to continue to be in the forefront of promoting the interdisciplinary approach needed to solve global health challenges confronting humanity.
The concept of one’s health envisages first factoring all indices in solving health challenges. The health of mankind is a product of human intervention with development.
“The quality of the environment has a great impact on the quality of human wellbeing,” he said.
Many dignitaries and academia were such as Ola Oresanya, former commissioner of environment in Ogun State; Toyin Olabanji, assistant director at the department of pollution control and environmental health, federal ministry of environment; Idowu Olowu, director quality assurance at Lagos State Water Regulatory Commission; and Helen Taiwo, executive director at Lagos State Water Corporation, among others.
The International Medical Geologists Association (IMGA) is an affiliate body of the Nigeria Mining and Geosciences Society (NMGS). It is a pool of professionals in environmental, geographical, medical and public health disciplines.
The body also conducts research into the effects of human interactions with the environment and offers prevention as well as ameliorative solutions to these effects when found to be negative.