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  • Sunday, June 16, 2024
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BusinessDay

Why investing in cardiovascular care is key for Nigeria

Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) have grown globally to become the most common causes of death and disability as people age with the baggage of risk factors, global studies show.

They account for about 17.9 million deaths yearly and over 75 per cent of such deaths are recorded in low and middle countries such as Nigeria, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Of these deaths, 85 per cent were due to heart attacks.

But while some developed countries have come far along to contain the prevalence through public health strategies that enhance life expectancy, Nigeria has not made much headway.

They have universal, publicly funded systems providing healthcare for all, a goal Nigeria’s government has just started chasing.

Nordic countries such as Denmark and Finland are using improvements in risk factors, treatment, and secondary prevention as tools to achieve fewer heart attacks, boosting life expectancy by more than 80 years, a Lancet regional health study shows.

Nigeria demonstrates a weak capacity to develop and invest in such specialist care at scale, nudging private stakeholders with the financial muscle to invest in the capacity for cardiovascular treatments locally.

Iwosan Lagoon is one of those health establishments that have stepped in to transform the quality and level of care available in Nigeria, approaching it as a key investment in the future of health in Nigeria.

Nigeria faces a rising death rate from cardiovascular diseases. This increase is driven by several risk factors, such as high blood pressure, heart failure, cardiac arrest, stroke, and more. Inadequate public awareness, limited access to screening programs, and a poor data collection system all contribute to this challenge.

Additional factors contributing to the rise of the disease in Nigeria include an ageing population and shifting lifestyles that leave a trail of devastation on people’s health.

Noting these factors and their impact on public health, Iwosan Lagoon emerged with a Centre of Excellence for Cardiology and Cardiac Care in Victoria Island, equipping it with an arsenal of tools and expertise required to fight against CVD.

One of its focal areas is the development of an operation led by a team of renowned cardiac specialists who leverage cutting-edge technology to deliver exceptional patient care.

It has invested in a modern catheterisation laboratory that enables specialists to apply skills in minimally invasive procedures to diagnose and treat a wide range of heart and vascular conditions. This translates to quicker diagnoses, precision-driven treatment options, and potentially faster recovery times for patients.

Olurotimi Badero, chief of interventional cardiology and director Cardiac Catheterisation Lab, at Iwosan Lagoon Hospitals, said the establishment is committed to positioning itself as one of the change drivers in Nigeria in terms of critical healthcare infrastructure and expertise.

Despite the rising challenge of retaining a skilled medical workforce in Nigeria, the hospital is doubling down on investing in experts who can deliver effectively.

Badero said the goal is to stay consistent in delivering excellent patient care in the treatment of cardiovascular disease, leveraging advanced technology.

“Patients can be confident to receive the most up-to-date treatment options available, thanks to our commitment to continuous learning and innovation,” Badero said.

The Iwosan Lagoon approach

Apart from heart surgeries, the hospital approaches disease management on multiple fronts with a holistic view of how survival and be achieved.

It also extends its focus from the treatment of existing cases to developing its human resources through training. It aims to stem the tide of brain drain and secure a pool of specialists to boost capacity locally. This commitment to knowledge transfer ripples outwards, empowering not just the hospital but the entire healthcare ecosystem.

Recognising the affordability barrier, Iwosan Lagoon Group has forged partnerships to offer subsidised procedures, ensuring even those with limited means can access life-saving care.

This commitment to inclusivity ensures that financial constraints don’t become a death sentence. The hospital also actively engages in community outreach programs, educating individuals about risk factors and early detection measures. This empowers communities to become active participants in their health, creating a ripple effect of awareness and preventive action.

The World Heart Foundation identifies insufficient physical activity, high sodium intake, high alcohol consumption, and tobacco smoking as factors that also boost the disease’s prevalence.

The factors that have to do with the body’s chemistry are considered high blood pressure, high fasting plasma glucose, high body mass index, high bad cholesterol, and diabetes.

Environmental factors include the pollution in the outdoor air that people breathe daily.

These factors have worsened death statistics around the world with, high bad cholesterol killing 3.8 million.

High fasting blood sugar kills about 2.3 million, air pollution kills about 4.8 million, high body-mass index kills 2 million, tobacco use kills 3 million, low physical activity kills 397,000 while high blood pressure kills about 10.8 million.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) poses a significant challenge in Nigeria, and while there are promising interventions and advancements, several gaps still hinder the progress.

The limited number of hospitals and skilled cardiologists in Nigeria to treat heart disease is a major contributor to the burden of cardiovascular disease in the country.

Heart surgeries in Nigeria are limited to just 13 centres. Also, the fight against CVD demands a deeper understanding, yet research funding remains inadequate.

This hinders the development of local strategies for prevention and treatment, leaving Nigerians dependent on solutions that may not perfectly address their unique needs.

Furthermore, skilled professionals often seek opportunities abroad, exacerbating the brain drain and creating a vicious cycle of talent loss.

While the goal is clear for a healthier Nigeria, the path remains broken. Stakeholders operate in silos, their efforts lacking the synergy needed to truly make a difference. Public-private partnerships are limited, hindering resource mobilisation and innovation. Even within communities, engagement in prevention and awareness campaigns falls short, leaving crucial gaps in the fight.

“We are immensely humbled to continue the journey of delivering excellent healthcare across our network in Lagos. A journey from the early 1990s, we take forward today as Iwosan due to our dedication to investing in healthcare. It is our vision that empathy should not just be a word but a guiding principle behind every interaction. We understand that every diagnosis is unique to every individual deserving of compassionate care,” Fola Laoye, co-founder and CEO, of Iwosan Investments Limited said.

Iwosan Lagoon Hospital, Victoria Island, goes beyond minimally invasive procedures and surgeries to offer a comprehensive approach to cardiovascular care. This helps patients benefit from advanced surgical options, with cutting-edge diagnostics like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), interventional cardiology procedures, and personalised medical and rehabilitative care.

This multi-faceted approach ensures patients receive the complete spectrum of support they need to manage their cardiovascular health.

The hospital’s efforts add to significant progress towards reducing its prevalence and impact is achievable.

It believes investing in hearts is not just about treating CVD, but also about a healthier, more vibrant Nigeria.

It’s about ensuring that every citizen, regardless of their socioeconomic background can live a long and productive life.

By acknowledging the challenges and focusing on achievable goals, Nigeria can make tremendous strides in combating CVD, the hospital believes.

It notes that the key lies in a multi-pronged approach that addresses the various contributing factors, investment in prevention, strengthened healthcare systems, and collaboration across all levels of society. Through sustained efforts and collective action, the dream of a healthier Nigeria with fewer lives lost to CVD can become a reality, Laoye said.

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