Overcoming culture and cost to deliver better stroke treatment in Nigeria

In this interview with MacDonald Oguike, the World Stroke Award Winner, shares his perspectives on key treatment issues for stroke patients in Nigeria and how the MasterStroke campaign aims to address them. 

The World Stroke Campaign was focussed on raising awareness that stroke is treatable. What would you say are the key issues around stroke treatment in Nigeria?

I'd say there are several issues around stroke treatment in Nigeria, but the three I'd like to highlight include public perception of stroke, the cost of treatment and the absence of stroke units in Nigeria. Regarding public perception, many cultures within Nigeria see stroke as a 'spiritual' issue and tend to seek solutions from spiritual homes which cannot provide adequate treatment and support to stroke victims. I feel public education and awareness on the risk factors and how to identify them will remove this cultural barrier over time.

Many people in Nigeria live in poverty and cannot afford the cost of stroke treatment and rehabilitation. Health insurance schemes which could be a source of support for individuals with stroke are not common in Nigeria. This really makes cost a key issue in Nigeria.

Your MasterStroke campaign made really strong use of digital and mobile technology, why did you choose this approach to awareness raising?

We chose a blended approach to the campaign, combining physical events across different states in Nigeria with a social media campaign.  Regarding the social media campaign we chose it for one particular reason; mobile devices and social media dominate the everyday lives of Nigerians.  CNN estimates that around 30-40 million Nigerians are now online and go through so many sites. For us at MasterStroke we see this as a very effective advocacy platform that will help to influence policy makers as well as creating wider awareness of stroke.

What were the most successful parts of the campaign?

For the social media campaign, the interaction with people all over Nigeria was remarkable. People shared their own stroke stories and reached out to us via our social media handles to ask about our program. From the physical events, we were awed by how many people showed up for our free blood pressure and blood sugar tests. It was good to see people take advantage of our charity events as these tests would cost $5-$10 in Nigerian hospitals.

How would you say the campaign has made an impact on the public and health policy makers?

I feel the campaign has helped raise public awareness of stroke in Nigeria. Through our campaign people are asking more questions about stroke. It's hard to gauge the policy impact as the campaign was not directly targeted at them, but we feel our campaign has generated political attention and we have had local government political leaders reach out to us to understand what we do at MasterStroke.

What does it mean to you to receive the World Stroke Award for outstanding individual achievement?

It means a lot to me to receive this award. I am tempted to keep it for myself, but in all fairness this award really belongs to the entire MasterStroke team and everyone who has helped grow the project over the past 16 months.  It is a testament that we are on the right track and all their effort and contribution didn't go unnoticed.

Advocacy work is work that involves selfless service to the community. It is all about providing services to others. Most people will never know how much effort and energy is put into advocacy work. Personally, last year was a very difficult year for me; juggling my day job and leading the MasterStroke project was too much workload for one person. Occasionally I felt overwhelmed, but the passion for the work and the energy of the team kept me going. Being recognized by the World Stroke Organization is an extraordinary achievement. This award means the hard work of the team has really paid off. This award for me is not the end but just the beginning of the many things we will accomplish via the MasterStroke campaign in Africa.

Overcoming culture and cost to deliver better stroke treatment in Nigeria Reviewed by Anita Wiseman on Friday, March 10, 2017 Rating: 5

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