UEL health promotion students take their antibiotic message to Nigeria
UEL students travel to west Africa to highlight threat of antibiotic resistance
A group of five health promotion students from the University of East London (UEL) have taken their campaign to raise awareness of antibiotic resistance all the way to Nigeria.
The students, who have studied antibiotic resistance (AR) as part of their degree course, spent nine days in Nigeria visiting schools, hospitals, churches and markets in the Owerri region of the country.
The trip was led by Sian Jones, a UEL lecturer in health promotion and public health.
She said, “Antibiotic resistance is the biggest global threat human existence as we know it.
“With increasing strands of resistant bacteria, we’re finding that increasing numbers of antibiotics are no longer affective in killing bad bacteria.
“We’ve all heard of ‘super bugs’ but the simple and non-sensationalist message is that if this trend of resistance to antibiotics continues, we will no longer be able to cure simple infections or conduct routine operations.”
After learning about antibiotic resistance during their final-year health promotion module, the students became involved in an extra-curricular project to design a health promotion campaign about AR in east London.
It was that experience which prompted them to take the message to Nigeria, where some of them originated from. It proved to be as much a learning experience for Sian and the students as it did for the people they met there.
Sian said, “Recognising the global importance of this health concern, which is especially burdensome for low and middle income countries, the students decided to return to pioneer an AR health promotion campaign in Nigeria.
“This work was meaningful both to those with whom we engaged but also for the students, who were able to use the knowledge they gained through their UK education to help home communities."
Sian added, "Our aim while in Nigeria was to firstly gather the perspectives of the community and health care professionals around AR.
“What we found was high levels of antibiotic misuse, frequent self-medication and freely accessible antibiotics sold at unlicensed pharmacies. The core reason for this behaviour was poverty and lack of access to health care.
“With this knowledge in mind, we were able to adapt our health message to take into account the financial cost of antibiotic use to the individual.
“While in the short term it may appear cost effective to self-medicate, to purchase a different antibiotic from what was prescribed or to only purchase half the course, in the long run this leaves individuals vulnerable to persistent infections which require further treatment and further cost over a longer period. This is just one of the ways in which we adapted our message to meet the Nigerian context.”
The UEL group received such a warm welcome that Sian hopes to return to Nigeria next year with a new group of students.
“We would like to continue this work and have built strong relationships with key members of the medical profession and government,” said Sian.
“As part of future work, I would advise that alongside a widespread health promotion campaign to raise awareness, we also advocate for improved widespread access to the National Health Insurance scheme and better enforcement of regulation around antibiotic distribution."