Dr Chiwuike Uba is an economist and governance expert. He is also the Executive Director of Amaka Chiwuike Uba Foundation (ACUF), a non-governmental organisation with a bias for the diagnosis and treatment of asthma and respiratory diseases. In this interview with PAUL OKAH, he revealed that asthma patients spend over N6 trillion annually on medications, the challenges of the Foundation in achieving its objective of better breathing for Nigerians, as well as the forthcoming 2019 ACUF annual national asthma conference.

On the 2019 ACUF confab

The 2019 Amaka Chiwuike-Uba Annual National Conference with the theme Better Breathing, Better Living: The Role of the Environment and Governance is unique and is coming at the right time. First, we are faced with challenges ranging from being rated as one the most polluted countries in the word to a country grappling with a lot of problems associated with other governance issues. Most diseases are associated with environmental and governance issues. The 2019 conference is, therefore, expected to x-ray the linkages between the environment and governance and its impacts on health management as well as make policy recommendations on ways to ‘deal’ with the identified challenges.

Veritable platform 

The annual conference is a platform to discuss national issues, especially health and related matters in an evidenced-based approach. The annual conference is not a talk shop. The workshop provides policy alternatives and action plan on how to solve the identified challenges. Having said this, it is important to note that each year’s conference is distinct, but also built on the successes of the preceding conference. The 2017 conference was anchored on the theme: “Improving the quality of life of people: The Role of Timely and Accurate Diagnosis and Management of Asthma.”

Fortunately, one of the outcomes of that conference was the identification of the environment and governance as key determinants in the management of health issues in Nigeria. The 2019 conference, therefore, will look at issues related to our environmental governance and other governance issues, as they affect the health management in Nigeria. Oil flaring has been going on since I was born, despite its attendant health and economic consequences. Secondly, the speakers at the 2017 conference are mainly experts in respiratory diseases, but the 2019 conference has a mix of speakers with expertise on respiratory (non-communicable) diseases, governance and oil and gas management. Participation in the 2019 conference is also expanded to accommodate arrays of professionals and experts.

Conference theme

First, as I earlier indicated, the theme for the 2019 conference slated for July 19 in Enugu flows from the outcome of the 2017 Conference. Nevertheless, the conference theme was chosen in consideration and recognition of the impact of environment and governance on the quality of life of people. Pollution is a major environmental health problem affecting everyone; contributing heavily to the burden of diseases: from stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and both chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma. Whereas people may have a greater ability to modify indoor environmental exposures, in most cases, they do not have direct control over outdoor pollutant concentrations. A clear example is the continuous and continuing gas flaring in Nigeria as well Nigeria’s rating as one of the most polluted countries in the world. The control of both indoor and outdoor environment exposures, therefore, becomes the key ingredient and responsibility of government and outcome of governance (either good or bad).