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LAGOS AND THE HEALTH STATUS OF PUBLIC SERVANTS

Remi Oladeinde

Universally, it is believed that health is wealth. Indeed, there is actually nothing in life that could be more valuable than good health. Without good health there is no happiness, no peace and no productivity. To be in good health connotes a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being. When health is lost, almost everything is lost. Famous Indian leader, Mahatma Gandhi, once said: “It is health which is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver”. It is the realisation of this truth that makes governments across the world place enormous premium on the upgrade of health infrastructure.

It is a well-known fact that good health drives productivity and apart from capacity building , investments made in the area of improving the wellbeing of a people is profitable ,this explains the priority the Lagos state government places on the health of its workforce. Indeed, research has shown that any organisation that neglects the health status of its workforce does that at its own peril. Dwindling productivity and lack of vigour and creativity are obvious results of decline in the health condition of workforce.

Being a workers’ friendly administration, the Akinwunmi Ambode government in Lagos State does not joke with the health reckoning of its workforce. One obvious cause of stress and other resultants medical conditions to any workforce is irregular payment of wages. Despite current economic situation across the country, which has made it so difficult for some state governments to pay their workers as at when due, Lagos State does not have any issue with regards to prompt payment of salary. It is quite a new and refreshing experience for Lagos public servants who now receive their salaries religiously before the 23rd of every month. This, obviously, has a soothing effect on workers’ health condition as stress related issues bothering on irregularity of wages are reduced to the barest minimum.

Constant free health screening for public servants is another focal point in the programme of the Lagos state government to keep its workforce healthy. This is often organized by the state’s Ministry of Health and is targeted at MDAs across the state. The screening is often done in areas such as blood sugar, blood pressure, eye test, cervical/breast cancer screening among others. Indeed, at most of the retreats organized by several MDAs in the state, officials of the state Ministry of Health are always on ground to give talks on health related matters as well as conduct tests aimed at ascertaining the health status of workforce. The aim is to ensure that public servants who are at the forefront of driving government’s policies, programmes, plans and activities are in good health to achieve set goals.

Similarly, during the recently concluded Lagos State Public Service Week celebration, massive emphasis was laid on the need for public servants to give appropriate attention to their health status. Speakers after speakers drew the attention of public servants to the need to pay premium attention to their health. They were advised to eat well, exercise well and take advantage of the various Lagos state government health initiatives for public servants to regularly go for vital health screening.

Indeed, a major highlight of this year’s event was the opportunity it availed public servants to daily go for medical screenings. Coordinated by officials of the State Ministry of Health, the free health screening had medical practitioners and affiliate health personnel attend to public servants in various areas including blood pressure checks to examine the state of the heart while nurses were also on hand to check their blood sugar level and others.

Consequently, public servants are now more conscious of their health status than before as they now check their blood pressure, blood –sugar and cholesterol levels regularly. The effect of this is that cases of workers slumping or collapsing suddenly, as it is often the case in other places, are out of the equation in the Lagos state public service. This has also resulted into improved productivity as recently publicly affirmed by Governor Ambode when he praised the state public servants as being responsible for the various giant strides of his administration so far. He particularly laid emphasis on the fact that productivity has increased tremendously among public servants in the state. This, no doubt, is not unconnected with the high premium government presently places on the health status of its workforce.

To build on and sustain the trend, the state government recently came up with a new initiative tagged: “Health Day for Lagos Public Servants”. At the novel event, representatives of the Lagos State Aids Control Agency, LSACA, were on ground to carry out the voluntary confidential counseling before Public servants took the HIV test as part of efforts to reduce the spread of HIV\AIDS prevalence in the state.

The response was quite great as over four hundred and fifty public servants came out for voluntary testing with the emphasis that the knowledge of one’s status is better than denial. It is, of course, a positive signal towards halting the spread of the disease in the state.

Another important aspect of the Health Day was the Nutrition Education stand where nutritionists enlightened public servants about the long term essence of healthy living with the affirmation that good food including green leafy vegetables and fresh fruits are also medicine as the benefits of the healthy, affordable foods are derived when eaten fresh rather than the fast, fried foods.

Worthy of note is also the cervical and breast screening centres recently introduced as part of the health screening programmes for public servants. It accords public servants the privilege of taking some time off their busy official schedule to participate actively and freely in the routine check since early detection remains the only preventive strategy to check the spread of lumps before it results into cancer and advances. Hundreds of women benefitted from the breast check and cervical examination even as medical personnel encouraged women to inform others about the significance of regular check-ups.

There is a saying that, “a wealthy nation is a healthy nation”. This is because better health is central to human happiness and well-being. Healthy population makes an important contribution to economic progress, as healthy populations live longer, are more productive, and save more. In fact, for a country to progress it must provide quality health services to the people to ensure high productivity. Public servants and, indeed, all Nigerians, are advised to take more than a casual interest in their health status. It is only in doing this that we can build a prosperous nation.

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