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This year’s 12th annual Symposium and Award Ceremony of the Health Writers Association of Nigeria (HEWAN) held at the NECA House Ikeja Lagos on the 20th December,2022 was a gathering of who is who in academia, Medical and Health journalism.

The theme of the symposium was “Emerging and Re-emerging infectious Diseases: Implications and Solutions”.
The President of HEWAN, Mrs Chioma Obinna in her welcome address told the guests that the symposium was designed to stimulate ideas on the infectious diseases that are emerging and Re-emerging in Nigeria and the world at large.

Speaking, the Chairman of the day, Dr Jimmy Adeyeye Arigbabuowo who is also the immediate past President, Healthcare Providers Association of Nigeria (HCPAN), commended HEWAN for the theme of the conference describing it as apt and timely especially now that the world is suffering from emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases.

He said the sub-theme “Achieving Universal Health Coverage through Mandatory Health Insurance: Role of National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA)” is also in line with the objective of the present administration and what all Nigerians are yearning for.

The representative of the Honourable Commissioner of Health Prof Akin Abayomi, Dr (Mrs) Abimbola Osinowo who is also the Coordinator, Malaria Elimination Program pledged the government commitment towards raising the bar in the process of combating the emergence of the infectious diseases.

A public health Physician, Dr Japhet Olugbogi who delivered the theme,“Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious diseases: Implications and Solutions” identified some of the infectious diseases to include HIV, SARS, Lyme disease, Escherichia coli O157:H7 (E. coli), hantavirus, dengue fever, West Nile virus Zika virus, Ebola, MERS, Chikungunya, Flu Viruses, H1N1 Influenza Virus (Swine Flu), Avian Influenza (Bird Flu), Covid19 and Monkeypox.

Olugbogi said the major cause of the problem remains man’s contact with wild animals and bird’s flu.

Other causes, according to him, include known organisms (agents) that have spread to new areas or countries; previously unknown infectious organisms; previously known organisms whose role in causing diseases have been missed and re-emergence of infectious organisms whose incidence of disease had gone down in the past but has now re-surfaced (re-emerging infectious diseases).
He stated that mutation is also a major cause of Re-emergence of diseases.

Dr Olugbogi defined Emerging Infectious Diseases as “infections that have recently appeared within a population or those whose incidence or geographic location/range is increasing rapidly or threatens to increase in the near future.

“Those diseases whose incidence in humans have increased in the past two decades or threatened to increase, outbreaks of diseases which were not known before, persistence of infectious diseases that cannot be controlled.”

He said “re-emerging diseases include malaria, tuberculosis, cholera, pertussis, influenza, pneumococcal disease, and gonorrhea,” noting that “there may be an ongoing outbreak of some diseases already under control in some areas at others places.”

Proffering solutions to the challenges of the emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, Dr. Olugbogi called for timely disease notification, strengthening of the healthcare system, enforcement of compulsory health insurance, the building of infrastructures, improvement of health workers’ welfare and re-training of health workers and provision of adequate consumables.

The presentations of Professor Stella Smith FAS, the Director of Research, Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) on the “Helicobacter pylori: The Peptic Ulcer Bug Neglected But Unrelenting” was the cherry on the cake during the program.

According to Prof. Smith, Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is a gram negative bacterium that infects and colonizes the human gut. The pathogen has been implicated in different gastric disorders including gastritis, peptic ulcer disease, gastric mucosa associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) lymphoma and gastric adenocarcinoma.

She identified Neglect, lack of accurate prevalence data, absence of consensus on the diagnosis and treatment, inadequate health care infrastructure and lack of funding as some factors limiting the research, diagnosis and treatment of H.pylori.

Prof Smith submitted that the diagnostic tools for the organism are Endoscopy, Histology, Rapid Urease test (RUT), Culture and Serology.

“The National Health Insurance Act 2022: Mandatory Health Insurance Geared Towards Achieving Universal Health Coverage” was delivered by Mrs Aisha Abubakar Haruna, the NHIA Ikeja State office Coordinator.

According to her, the signing of the NHIA Act 2022 bestows on the agency the function to promote, integrate and regulate all health insurance that operate in Nigeria, ensure that health insurance is mandatory for every Nigerian and legal resident, to enforce the basic minimum package of the health services for all Nigerians across all health insurance schemes operating within the country, to promote, support and collaborate with the States through State Health Insurance Schemes, to ensure access to quality healthcare and to grant accreditation and re- accreditation to HMOs, MHAs Tapas and HCFs and monitor their performances.

The program concluded with awards given to recognise individuals and corporate organisations who have distinguished themselves in the health sector and have also supported the growth of health journalism. These included, Dr Uche Ojimmah, the President, Nigeria Medical Association, Prof Akin Abayomi, Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Dr Jimmy Adeyeye Arigbabuowo immediate past President, Healthcare Providers Association of Nigeria (HCPAN), Noriyuki Ogushi, Managing Director, Ajinomoto and Dr Adedaramola Dada, the Chief Medical Director of Federal Medical Center Ebute Metta Lagos.