Epidemiologist, DR. CHRISTOPHER OGBONNAYA OGBU, who recently returned to Nigeria after spending 43 years in United States of America, in his exclusive interview with Citizens’ Advocate reporter Okereke Wilson Ogbonnaya disclosed that maintaining healthy living lies solely on individual rather than government.
Sir may we know your name and profession?
I am Dr. Christopher Ogbonnaya Ogbu, a member of late Ogbu Nwonu’s family in Umueziukwu Village, Igboeze Onicha Community in Onicha LGA of Ebonyi State. I left Nigeria as a teenager in the year 1973 for USA where I studied Epidemiology through the help of my brothers before I returned finally four years ago, but before then, I did visit home periodically.
Many people seem not to be conversant with your profession. Sir in a layman’s language, can you tell us what epidemiology is all about?
It is one of the branches of science that deals with the study of the spread and control of diseases. The professionals are known as preventers of possible diseases. So, the course centres on the study of infectious diseases while the personnel are saddled with the principal function of preventing diseases and giving vaccine in the clinic.
For instance, during the case of guinea worm, its solution was not found until after the Epidemiologists had waded into the situation by stopping people from drinking unclean water. The profession can also be known as preventive medicine because it is all about doing those little things that need to be done for one to be well.
Sir how can you relate the discipline to our daily lives?
It is applicable to both animate and inanimate objects. Our individual vehicles and houses can serve as a case study. If one does not take good care of them, they will begin to spoil, same thing with a farmer, after cultivation and the person fails to maintain the crops, he or she is prone to encounter loss. This is how it works for human beings; we ought to be conscious of those requirements needed for body maintenance.
I can recall that during Nigeria/Biafra war where people were experiencing Kwashiorkor. I was among the persons who were preparing and serving food to the public. Then over 5,000 patients who were found at Onicha Central School, Egunkwo were not given any medicine rather they recovered through the foods supplied by World Health Organisation (WHO), Catholic Charity Organisation and the Seventh Day Adventists.
The preventive medicine can be applied to transportation and traffic. I do cry everyday when I see people driving vehicles or riding motorcycles recklessly without weighing the implications. If one visits accident unit of general hospitals, the person will see a large number of victims of road crashes, some with simple or compound fracture, broken hands and cracked heads.
The relatives of those persons are being subjected to different forms of pains because of the carelessness of either the driver or motorcycle operator; in application of preventive medicine to the situation, the professionals will produce booklets containing traffic rules and regulations, make them available in many languages and share to road users and as a result reduce the crashes.
As earlier said that one’s health is in his or her hand. This means that people should not be waiting for medical doctors’ pieces of advice before they can protect their health from all forms of danger. We won’t wait for someone to tell us what to do, eat or how to avoid getting injured.
In the case of road crashes, Epidemiologist would study the factors mechanically, emotionally, medically such as eyes check up and general well being or otherwise and possibly work on the causes to avoid reoccurrence
In this part of the society, people are in the habit of washing ones’ hands before eating some foods as foofoo or Eba with ordinary water.
Such acts tantamount to soaking bacteria and get it ready for consumption; it is similar to when somebody washes his hand inside bowl being carried by someone else. In this situation, there is tendency that the person being served will not wash his or hand properly.
Which other areas do you think that diseases can be prevented through hygiene?
If communities can construct toilets capable of serving everyone, it will go a long way in reducing disease outbreak in the areas because with such action, open defecation could be stopped. At the hinterland, you can see people going into the bush to ease themselves without considering that before they could come out; they might have marched on other people’s excreta and in the long run return to their homes while having it under their foot wears.
My general advice is that people should always check the hygienic nature of every food before consumption, nutritionally. People should be told the value of fruits and vegetables. Ironically, fruits and vegetables which are high nutritious appear to be cheaper than other foods.
Sir, may we know your religion.
I am a staunch Catholic, but I abhor a situation where people will be sleeping in the church regularly without creating time to make a living for themselves.
With my belief, I cherish the culture because even Americans do celebrate cultural activities regularly and during the feasts. The entire USA do observe holidays. In California, dead ones are being remembered and honoured, same applicable to the Spanish, they do celebrate their past relatives too.
What about your marital life?
My marriage has been blissful and blessed with two ladies and two men, at least my first child and daughter is a medical doctor. Her two younger brothers are Electrical Engineer and Pharmacist respectively while the youngest daughter is a teacher, all in USA.