Medical Experts Warn against Obesity, Others as Susceptible to COVID-19


…Call physiotherapists to join fight against infectious diseases

By Rebecca Ejifoma

Medical experts and members of the Nigeria Society of Physiotherapy (NSP) have warned against obesity among others, as susceptible to COVID-19 pandemic.

This was the submission at the six days Eko2020 60th Scientific Conference and Annual General Meeting, which held both virtually and physiaclly from November 1 to 6.

Themed, ‘The 2020 Pandemic, A Critical Juncture for Reversing Health Tourism’, the conference was held at the National Orthopaedic Hospital, Igbobi, Lagos.

The Guest Lecturer, Dr. Babatubde Ogundunmade, who described obesity as a danger in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, said the earlier Nigeria sits and face the current challenges, the better for the nation.

“The percentage that is affected are people that have poor morbidity who are more susceptible to it – like high blood pressure, obesity and cholesterol – combined effect, not a single effect, is going to make them more susceptible to it,” Ogundunmade said.

According to the specialist, “the issue is that, whichever one it is, we need to sit down on our own side of divide and tackle obesity in our country. If we tackle it, we will make people less susceptible to pandemic any time it occurs, even though we are not praying for such.

“We should ensure protection of our populace in terms of weight check. Make sure that they don’t get to obesity. Most especially to obesity class four, it’s dangerous, and it puts them at high risk of the problem.”

On strategies to help the nation’s health system, Ogundunmade emphasised that the health system should be well funded. “We should embrace the private sector as a co-significant contributor to the health delivery in our country.”

As a Cardiopulmonary Physiotherapy Specialist, Ogundunmade said the pandemic has multifaceted effects on our lives beyond earth.9

He further hinted that the fear the pandemic has instilled in the population, both the afflicted and the non-afflicted, is so much. “They have different degrees of stress now. We must all know that that is what is happening and attend to it with all politeness, and kindness.

“We must continually be receptive to the patient and also be relevant to their lives. I want to tell you that it is not all the stories of woes from what I’ve said. It is not a death sentence. People get better with it.

“I pray the very best for those afflicted. My heart goes out with them, because I know what they pass through. I wish them the quickest recovery. I pray for their families that are socially traumatise.

“Trauma affects body soul and spirit. It’s not only body. Unfortunately, we only look at it from the perspective of body. It affects soul and spirit too. The earlier we start to attend to those ones too, the better for us”.

Earlier, the President, NSP, Dr. Rufai Yusuf Ahmed, acknowledged that the pandemic has changed the way organisations, individuals and countries globally do things.

Owing to this, he said physiotherapists in Nigeria are looking at discussions on how they can come in and work with other stakeholders to have that preparedness when there is pandemic, not just the COVID-19.

“You will prepare in the aspect of health care system and education, looking at how the curriculums can change.

“We are looking at our continuous professional development looking at the ethics of practice and so many other areas that we are not discussing to see how we can have that preparedness, so that in the future when that happens like a pandemic or any crisis that physiotherapists will be ready to manage those problems.”

On the lessons the pandemic has taught the physiotherapists, the president outlined, “one of the things we looked at and our involvement in infectious and management of infectious diseases”.

According to the president, for a very long time, physiotherapists focused more on non-communicable diseases with rehabilitation.

“We have not really focused a lot within our curriculum and the practice and other areas.
This pandemic has shown us that we really need to go to the basics that we have roles to play in infectious diseases and we need to strengthen the curriculum for our students who are graduating to have very good grasp of the infectious diseases and how exercises can prevent diseases and help boost immunity.”

Speaking on continuous professional education, Ahmed insisted that “our curriculum needs to change. We are going to work on it, on how we develop continuous professional practice guidelines and many other things that the pandemic has really taught us to do.”

Other topics treated at the workshop were “Strategic prioritisation and policy development skills essential requirement for a successful manage,” and “Implementing physiotherapy-related health policies: The challenges and opportunities” by Dr. Felix Obi.