Much-needed research into the health needs of the elderly receives a major boost as the Port-Harcourt based O.B. Lulu-Briggs Foundation inaugurates a committee to operationalize its N50 million High Chief (Dr.) O.B. Lulu-Briggs Geriatric Care Endowment Fund to be domiciled at the Rivers State University.
Initially announced on the occasion of High Chief O.B. Lulu-Briggs’s first posthumous birthday in 2019, the Foundation said the Fund would be used to promote Geriatric Care and research into care of the elderly at the RSU teaching hospital in line with its longstanding commitment to caring for the elderly.
“From a knowledge-building perspective, research and data on the quality of life and health status of older persons in Nigeria is extremely limited,” Mrs. Seinye Lulu-Briggs, chairman of the Foundation said.
“Even before the COVID 19 pandemic, many of our elderly did not have ready access to appropriate, quality and affordable health care. Furthermore, when they visit health care facilities older people face age-related stigma and discrimination. And there is a lack of health workers with the skills and expertise to care for older people. These factors deter many older people from seeking health care and it also hinders proper diagnosis and care.”
Mrs Lulu-Briggs drew from her personal experience of taking care of her later husband and had first-hand experience of the specialized nature of geriatric care.
“I understand why these factors deter many older people in Nigeria from going to the hospital when they are ill and how they hinder proper diagnosis and care,” she said.
She noted that the Covid-19 pandemic has further put a spotlight on senior citizens’ health issues around the world and how it is connected to those belonging to the younger population bracket.
“It quickly became evident that older people and those with underlying medical conditions are at a higher risk of death and grave sickness from the Covid-19 disease” she said. “This reminded the world that older people tend to have greater health care needs because chronic health conditions are more prevalent in old age. Anecdotal evidence from our communities indicate that many elderly Nigerians’ conditions of living and well-being have deteriorated significantly as a result of the ongoing pandemic.”
According to the Foundation, the Fund will support the advancement of scientiﬁc, occupational therapeutic, educational research and multidisciplinary medical care; the training of multidisciplinary medical professionals in Geriatric Medicine and related fields; and the establishment of a world class Geriatrics Medical Unit at the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital.
It would also help towards the achievement of any other purposes which shall be deemed relevant to the establishment of a Geriatrics Medical Unit at RSU’s Teaching Hospital and in the development of Geriatrics Medicine in the University.
“May I take this opportunity to thank Professor Blessing Didia, the then Vice Chancellor of the Rivers State University and his colleagues who welcomed our idea and worked with us at the beginning of this journey in 2019. Today’s launch marks an important step forward. Thanks to Professor Nlerum Okogbule, Vice Chancellor of the Rivers State University and his team for making today’s event possible,” Mrs Lulu-Briggs said.
Members of the Funds Advisory Committee are Ms. Valerie Young-Harry; Honourable Wogu Boms; Professor Opunebo B. Owei, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) RSU; Professor Chituru Orluwene, Provost, College of Medical Science, (RSU) and Professor Hope Bell-Gam, Professor of Geriatric Medicine.
On her part, the Deputy Governor of Rivers State, Dr. Ipalibo Harry-Banigo, who was represented by a Director in her office, Mr. Ben Roberts said, the O. B. Lulu-Briggs was renowned for formulating ideas and demonstrating practical capacity on how to cater to the health and social needs of senior citizens. She assured of the commitment of the Rivers State Government to continue to implement policies that would make life comfortable for every citizen in the State, including the elderly. Dr. Banigo pledged the support of the Rivers State Government in always identifying with work of the O. B. Lulu-Briggs Foundation.
Vice Chancellor of the Rivers State University, Professor Nlerum Okogbule thanked the Foundation for its gift to the institution and promised to ensure judicious use of the Fund.
He said: “this occasion is unique in four main respects: it represents the genuine commitment and determination of the Foundation to honour a distinguished Nigerian, an astute businessman and a renowned philanthropist, Late Chief O.B. Lulu-Briggs. It also speaks to the growing realization that in health and related matters, the government cannot do it at all alone and the participation of private individuals and corporate entities can go a long way in making our society more humane. Even more importantly, the recognition of the need for special medical attention to be given to issues concerning the aged in our society is not only timely but very commendable. Finally, the commitment to focus also on research and training of the needed manpower in this area cannot be over-emphasized, as it holds the key for future advancement in this rare area of medical treatment.”
Ms. Valerie Young-Harry, Chairman of the Fund’s Advisory Committee also expressed appreciation to the chairman and board of the Foundation. Among those who attended the event were Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, Nigeria’s Deputy Senate President and Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, the Chief Whip of the Nigerian Senate.