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WHEN I first came to this country, I was not concerned about my health, just like every other male in his early 20s. My prevailing notion then was that people only sought medical attention either when they were ill or they were at the point of death. Preventive care was not part of my dictum. So, it never occurred to me that there was a need for routine medical help regardless of how healthy I felt.
Throughout my undergrad and post bachelor’s degree, as well as graduate program, I never sought medical help. The only exception was when I had a profuse nosebleed. I had to go to a nose specialist who corrected the problem. That did not change my attitude toward going to the doctor for periodic physical examination. It was not uncommon for people like me to have nonchalant attitude preventive care based on the fact that we felt invisible and hidden chronic illness was not our portion.
My attitude about preventive care changed when I visited Nigeria to bury my dad in 1992. I felt he died young and besides I felt sick there, but I didn’t let anyone know. Since I had less than a week to leave the country, I tried to tough out the stomach discomfort that plagued me for the short period I was there. Secondly, I did not want to raise any alarm or increase the anxiety level of my mom and my siblings because of my condition. Thus, immediately I arrived to the United States, I scheduled an appointment to see our family doctor. Series of tests were run, but nothing was found.
At a point, colonoscopy was ordered and performed and nothing was found. I was prescribed medicines irritable stomach, which helped alleviate the discomfort. To cut the long story short, I made comprehensive annual medical examination part of my life and I have not skipped any year since 1992 without the annual physical examination where screening several diseases were done. The last colonoscopy was a few years ago, to screen for colon cancer.
A few days ago, I had my 2016 comprehensive annual medical examination and was given a clean bill of excellent health. Realizing that our people have not imbibed the culture of preventive care, when I came out from the doctor’s office, I made my experience public to encourage others to do the same. It is paramount for people to do their yearly checkup based on age, gender, and family history. Oftentimes, early detection and treatment of deadly diseases increase the chances of survival. Therefore, annual physical exam is very critical for everyone, particularly the aging population. Most of the time, early detection occurs during a routine checkup—way before the symptoms emerge thereby increasing the survival rate. Also, some preventable diseases are caught early during a comprehensive medical examination.
According to UnityPoint Clinic (unitypoint.org), “Many adults might not think a yearly checkup is really necessary, especially when they consider themselves to be in good health. However, nearly one third of the 133 million Americans living with a chronic disease are unaware of their health condition. In fact, a chronic disease causes 7 out of every 10 deaths.”
UnityPoint Clinic stressed, “Preventive care to offset a chronic disease should be woven into all aspects of life, including where and how we live, learn, work, exercise, as well as our health care. Getting a yearly checkup is important in maintaining good health, and should be an integral part of anyone’s health care routine.”
But among Nigerians, the rate of individuals who go for yearly medical checkup is disappointingly low. Most of them here still wait until they are ill before they go to the doctor, a culture they learned from their home country. Nevertheless, several Nigerian organizations are working diligently to change the culture of preventive care among Nigerians by education and providing the services to the places they normally gather for various events.
Keyna Omenukor, Chief Executive/Founder of the David Omenukor Foundation expressed her strong feelings toward early health screening citing that it could prevent unnecessary deaths. She said, “My strong belief in the adage that “Prevention is better than cure’’ has remained a driving force behind my zeal and drive to spread the doctrine of preventive healthcare.” Ms. Omenukor continued, “Again, the passion to stop preventable death which is one of the critical components of preventive health care has been firing my zeal to spread the doctrine of preventive healthcare system and it is this philosophy embedded in the Mission statement of the Foundation that has remained the driving force behind my expansion of the DOF medical missions annually.”
According to Omenukor, “The Foundation has since its inception been carrying out a crusade to inform and educate people on the prevalence of the disease as well as carrying out advocacy and enlightenment programs.
It has also been providing free cancer screening tests to people especially the less privileged and the underserved in our society. Already it has organized seven health missions, one in Garland, Texas, USA, and six in Imo state Nigeria.” In any case, preventive care saves lives!