As commentators and locals alike celebrate Nigeria’s recent overtaking of South Africa to become Africa’s largest economy, many remain pragmatic about the journey that lies ahead to sustain this growth and ensure the basics such as education, healthcare administration and infrastructure are in good order.

Public health has in the past been considered a somewhat specialised field, staffed only by medical professionals – and with a worrying number of misdiagnoses having been reported, improvements are still needed. Many Nigerians continue to fall victim to common diseases, such as malnutrition, HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

The effects of westernisation

In 2014, the Public Library of Science (PLOS) published a report showing that the growing influence of westernisation could mean a new wave of public-health issues for Nigeria.

Constance Shumba is a public-health practitioner who works as a Research and Grants Manager coordinating various operational research activities in health-service delivery in Uganda. She has also been a faculty member on the Master of Public Health programme at the University of Roehampton, London Online since 2014.

Writing for Vanguard, Constance maintains that “by becoming wealthier, better educated and more urbanised, regions of Nigeria and other sub-Saharan African countries are gaining the attributes that would more commonly be associated with Western societies – non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and hypertension, as well as injuries – requiring the skills and knowledge of a much more diverse public-health department than ever needed before.”

Wanted: committed, passionate health professionals

Committed, passionate and dedicated health professionals are needed to address these overwhelming challenges, especially those who have a strong understanding of the need for – and a desire to take – a new approach to public health across sub-Saharan Africa. And with 70% of the country’s population of 180 million under 30, Nigeria is ripe for new employees coming through the ranks to champion the cause.

Education is key

The University of Roehampton has developed an online Master of Public Health degree programme (MPH) for those already working in public health and those wishing to start a new career in this exciting field. Education will play an important role, not only in aiding public-health workers in their quest to prevent disease and combat poor quality of life, but also in raising awareness of the field itself, demystifying the profession, and encouraging a stronger uptake of healthcare degrees and careers related to public health.

The online MPH programme ensures that those who want to make a difference in their country have access to learning best practices from practitioners throughout the world without having to leave their city or country. The online classroom provides a portal to a diverse range of expertise from different professions and different countries, and this in turn helps broaden the way public-health issues are assessed, and provides the opportunity for others to suggest new solutions to old problems.

A new understanding of public health

According to Constance, “the future of healthcare looks promising if the right support from government and partnerships with non-traditional groups in the private sector are secured.

“Thankfully, more people from other sectors (such as business, IT and education) have started to understand the multi-disciplinary nature of public health, the need for collaboration and the role that a diverse range of professionals can play in developing a 21st-century public-health system in Nigeria that is truly fit for that purpose.”

In a sector where morale has traditionally been low for a number of reasons, there is every opportunity for a new influx of MPH graduates and employees to effect change, making Nigeria and other countries healthy and flourishing places to live and prosper.

Put your knowledge and reasoning to the test and find out what it takes to help others as a public health professional using Roehampton Online’s interactive simulation - Save Manresa!

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