Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The relevance of EHO in Hajj medical team

By Sani Garba Mohammed

Environmental health is the control, in totality, of all factors in man’s physical environment which exercise or may exercise a deleterious effect on his physical development, health and survival. It plays a vital role in control of communicable diseases, potable water supply, food sanitation and personal hygiene. It is multi-sectoral, meaning it has to do with every aspect of man-environment relationship.

For many years, Nigeria has had medical team [comprising only doctors, nurses, and pharmacist] in hajj operations, who take care of the medical needs of the pilgrims. However, their involvement was not formalized untill recently.
The relevance of EHO starts from the training of intending pilgrims at local and state levels, hajj camps, airports on how to observe personal cleanliness, how to clean their environment, healthy eating, proper utilization of sanitary conveniences and facilities, how to prevent common illnesses due to change of environment, also how to prevent motion sickness, and many others.

Environmental Health officers [EHO] are preventive health officers in the field of healthcare development and promotion, prevention and control of diseases; as such, their relevance cannot be overemphasized while in the holy land. Here are few of their roles;

Many pilgrims are new to the holy land, and coming mostly from villages, their knowledge ofpersonal hygiene and how to disposed off waste products to the appropriate place is small; many pilgrims are ignorance of the basic principle of environmental sanitation, they behave anyway they like in littering the environment, hence, they need proper education by registered and license EHO, to sensitize and guide them on how not to abuse environment in the holy land.

Food sanitation: food is one of the basic and indispensable necessities of life, ranking equal in importance with only air and water. Even though Saudi government and some states governments do provide food to pilgrims, yet Nigerians like to patronize the food prepared by Nigerians in the Diaspora better known as ‘takari’ which, according to them, is more tasty and delicious. In this case, EHO would go round the various spots and tents where these foods are prepared to educate the food handlers on the guidelines and procedure they will adhere to from the stage of preparation to the point of sale to the pilgrims, in such a way the food be free from obvious and visible dirt, and from gross microbial, chemical or biological contaminants.

These ‘takari’ are in the habit of getting stale food due for disposal, re-heat it, package it, and offer it for sale to unsuspecting pilgrims, which is contaminated, and therefore unfit for human consumption. EHO, must be vigilant, active and a barrier between ‘Takari’, and the pilgrims, to make sure food offer for sale to the latter is wholesome.

Public health inspection: house to house inspection of pilgrims to sensitize and educate them on cleanliness of their rooms, sanitary conveniences, and proper & appropriate utilization of sanitary facilities provided, to ensure clean and free offensive odour environment.

Diseases control: majority of the disease affecting the pilgrims are preventable, for instance, diarrhea, food poisoning, some allergies, dysentery, etc., are associated with either change in dietary habit, poor personal hygiene, or non-adherence to precautions, and environmental influence. So, regular inspection and educating the pilgrims on how to protect their health, will address 70% of health needs of Nigerian pilgrims.

These and many more are are the good things the EHOs can do.
Based on these, the federal government must make sure only registered and licensed EHOs, adequate in number, are given the chance to participate in rendering their services in the holy land as part of hajj medical teams. States government must be made to be include registered EHO in their medical team, so that their impact can be seen, as doctors, pharmacist and nurses have fewer roles to play than EHO in educating the pilgrims on the do’s and don’ts of prevention, which is better than cure, the are ubiquitous length, not staying in clinics to do their work.