Free Medical Outreach for Edo Journalists: Emwanta Kicks off Intervention Fund for Health Emergencies

Edo State commissioner for communication and orientation, Andrew Adaze Emwanta, has launched what he called a ‘health intervention fund’ for journalists in the state council of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, NUJ, to take care of medical emergencies that may arise among members of the union. Emwanta, who advocated the setting up of the fund, stated that “It is not when somebody is critically ill, that you will now be looking for millions”, stressing that “at that initial stage, it is always good to nip it in the bud”.

The commissioner, who spoke on Thursday when he flagged off a three-day free medical outreach for journalists in the state at the NUJ secretariat, a collaboration between the union and the ministry of health, appealed to all journalists to, from time to time, make it a personal routine to check their blood pressure, their pulse, and other things, noting that it is not only during a medical checkup like this that they should do it. According to him, ‘Once you are above 40, it’s necessary to always check your health…

“So, having said that, I want to thank the present Exco for what you are doing. And I will also appeal that there is the need to have what I call a health intervention fund. I will be making a pledge to that fund today because there may be journalists that may not have the means to do some of all these things. So, I think there is need for the NUJ, at times, to support such journalists. From time to time, you encourage your visitors here to make little contributions; even among journalists, if God has blessed you. And before you know it, that money keeps going up. And whenever there is an emergency, you don’t need to rush; you have something to fall back to”.

Appreciating the state chairman of the council, Festus Alenkhe for his “bold and beautiful initiative”, the commissioner recalled how during the campaign that brought him into office, he used to say it’s not under his watch that a journalist would slump and die due to health constraint. Speaking on his personal experience when, about a week ago, he was in Calabar on official assignment, and had to be hospitalised for the first time in his life, Emwanta noted that “At times you take health for granted. I never knew how important health was until I was down critically; why, because I was not doing medical check-up until my blood pressure rose. Even checking your BP, as simple as it is, can change your life. God forbid if something had happened; nobody would really trace it. They would say cardiac arrest. What leads to cardiac arrest is carelessness on our part”.

Permanent secretary, ministry of health, Dr. Stanley Ehiarimwian, who represented the commissioner, said the collaboration between the ministry and the NUJ was one they cherished so much, adding that “We are very happy when we see people who are interested in their health. Everybody should actually be interested in his or her health because if you have health, you have all that it takes to become all that you want to be”.

Irowa advised that “You don’t wait for disaster to happen before running to the hospital”, noting that prevention is not only better than cure, “it is also cheaper and gives you a lot of peace. We encourage you to do all you can to prevent disease, to promote health, and by so doing, you are promoting life. And so, when we see organisations and societies, or even individuals, coming to ask for what they should do, we are happy. We encourage people who seek good health behavior; and so, we are happy that this is happening today. And the issue of health should not just be tied to a three-day programme like what we have now.

“Yes, it’s a good place to start; but it should form part and parcel of our everyday life. Sometimes, some things as little as walking 30 minutes a day, being mindful of the kind of food that you eat, what you drink, the kind of activity you engage in, could go a long way towards making you healthy, and even prolonging, and enjoying your life. And so, we want to use this opportunity to tell our brothers and sisters in the Nigerian Union of Journalists that we value what you are doing; we appreciate it. Not only because the health status of your members will improve, but it will also be an opportunity for us to talk to members of the public on the need to seek good health behavior”.

In his goodwill message, Godwin Erhahon, one-time chairman of the state council of the NUJ, thanked the chairman for the initiative, his good and productive leadership, as well as all those who made this exercise possible, particularly the ministry of health. Erhahon, former publicity secretary of the All Progressives Congress, APC in Edo, posited that “It is not an indictment that we journalists are amongst the group of professionals too busy to attend to our health. That is why you find that when you get old, your body will start showing some signs”.

He prayed for greater wisdom and good health for the executive to continue in their service to members.

A veteran journalist and octogenarian, Josiah Obadigie, expressed delight at the developmental projects facilitated by the Alenkhe-led executive “while I am still alive”. Obadigie, who joins the nonagenarian club next year, stated that “if in our days in Bendel State when I was the secretary, two times, we had this type of programme, we would have had more people in our time that are still here”. He advised journalists to desist from excessive drinking, stating that “that is part of the things that we should use to check ourselves”.

In his welcome address, the NUJ chairman recalled that in December last year when the present executive came on board, journalists in Edo State were assured of regular medical checkup “because I know that we are too busy. We run around for stories; we travel virtually on daily a basis, and we really don’t have enough time to check ourselves. So, the current leadership of the NUJ in Edo State decided to bring the checkers to our door steps. And we have here, medical doctors drawn from all parts of Edo State, coming here to the press centre today to do thorough checking because there are those that have one or two issues.

“They will be diagnosed appropriately, because when health challenges are detected early enough, such person is bound to have a longer life. So we are of the opinion that as journalists, we should find time to check ourselves medically to see if we are still very strong and healthy because we believe that life is just too interesting for anyone to let go. We also know that the current economic situation in the country; there are challenges facing the country, and we journalists we are not left out”.

Among services being provided, apart from general medical checks like checking of blood pressure, sugar level, and eye tests, journalists are taking advantage of continuous vaccination for COVID-19, especially those who have not taken at all. There is also opportunity to take the booster doses by those who have taken the first and second doses.

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