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Author Topic: Nigeria Eyes Biotech to Boost Healthcare  (Read 2671 times)
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Francis Umeoguaju
Expert in Bioscience Issues
Posts: 657

« on: September 15, 2010, 02:04:11 pm »

Governments in Sub-Saharan Africa, including Nigeria, are moving to integrate advances in science and technology into their countries’ service delivery offerings. Many have set up agencies to encourage the use of science and technology as a mechanism for accelerating economic growth and reducing poverty through the adoption of current global translational technologies.

Most of these initiatives, however, have been in the agriculture and telecommunications sectors. This is now changing. There are indications that the medical community plans to adopt biotechnology as a platform for better healthcare delivery in the subregion. An encouraging trend is the willingness of countries to collaborate with each other and partner with the private sector in addressing problems in sectors ranging from blood banking to clinical laboratory services at the community level.

Earlier this year, the Lagos State government of Nigeria, through the Ministry of Health, announced its intention to introduce biotechnology to enhance medical services and to invest in healthcare technology.

Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Jide Idris, M.D., and OGNOS Partners, a public policy consulting firm, recently hosted a meeting entitled “The Future of Medicine: Exploring the Impact of Technological Advancement on Health Policy,” in which we delivered the keynote speeches.

The lecture brought together key stakeholders in the health sector to better understand the role of advanced translational technologies in healthcare and also identified solutions toward addressing issues identified in a coordinated and comprehensive manner.

A variety of initiatives to use biotechnology in medicine and how these can assist in the diagnosis or prognosis of diseases, improve the prevention of diseases, and help conceive and execute new treatments in patients were discussed at the meeting.

In our addresses, we discussed how the holy grail of medical research is getting the latest discoveries translated into products that can treat patients at the bedside—and conversely, how observations made in the clinic can guide research at the bench and vice versa, what we call bench to bedside (and back).

We used the analogy that biotechnology is to medical science what cellular technology was to telecommunications. Advances in this field may create the quantum leap needed to overcome the major challenges of healthcare provision in poor and developing countries.

In addition, we stressed the need to develop and implement the right policies for biotechnology to thrive in Nigeria. We also called on government to institute policies that would potentiate the capacity of the private medical sector to optimize its service outputs. This requires a review of the curriculum of Lagos State University, College of Medicine to create the appropriate departments to teach bioinformatics, genetics, patents and intellectual property law, and other related subjects in preparation of the personnel demands that will definitely arise from such major shifts in technology.

Effective health planning needs to anticipate future healthcare technology and take its impact into account. For health policy makers committed to improving national health systems, involvement of these new technological areas in the policy formulation process is essential to ensure that health policy, when implemented, is future-proof.

Appropriate studies of the medical value chain need to be undertaken to accurately determine the most effective mode of engagement with these new technologies. Policy makers need to ask, “Where and how in the healthcare delivery chain can developing country health systems intervene with biotech tools to deliver the most bang for their limited buck?”

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