PATHS2: Live Healthcare Debate in Nigeria

A highlight of our work on the Output 5 component of PATHS2 in Nigeria has been the live debate on health issues in Kano State that was broadcast on television and radio right across Nigeria in January 2011.

The discussions were part of a campaign across several states to ‘Ask Nigeria’ what it knows, thinks and feels about issues to do with health – in particular health issues around malaria, diarrhoea and pregnancy, as part of the overall DFID PATHS2 healthcare programme. The excellent media coverage has generated discussion, increased public awareness of the issues, and created a pathway for addressing these key healthcare challenges.

On the agenda were issues such as: how and when to involve health services; whether it is acceptable to visit a hospital or whether it goes against local traditions; and what type of health care people were entitled to access if only they knew about it. The debate also touched on finding solutions to the barriers preventing people from getting professional medical help.

The tone of the debates was non-confrontational and emphasised the collective responsibility all people have to health. In the audience were ministry representatives, political parties, local communities, traditional rulers, religious leaders, socially excluded people, media representatives, women’s groups, leaders of youth and professional associations, and NGOs involved in health advocacy and behaviour change. As is traditional, men sat on one side, women on the other, but all were united in their need and desire for more health care services and better health care information.

Discussion around what the ideal situation would be emphasized encouraging people to learn about and understand their entitlements to health care and reassuring communities it was ok to seek professional health advice if a child or person is sick. The debate hoped to dispel some of the myths and fears surrounding modern health care in Nigeria, and promote the improved services and facilities available in many areas.

The media debate had follow-up advertisements in the National Daily newspapers, and dedicated ASK Nigeria email addresses and hotline numbers were provided allowing people to send in feedback, comments and questions. These will help keep the debate alive and inform future public health dialogues at both state and at national level.

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