"Africa Health" not just a journal!


Growing up with a physician for a father in 70s Nigeria, had a few of advantages and challenges. In the small university town of Nsukka, there were not many medical journals that came through the post. One that did come through inevitably every month was “Africa Health”. As I slowly developed an interest for my father’s profession, I began looking forward to this journal. It came with a good mix of stories and articles, inspirational and informative – but most intriguing of all was the quiz….with the answers upside down at the end of the journal.

For over 30 years, Africa Health has been a leading source of clinical and managerial information for health professionals from across Africa. Incorporating the old Medicine Digest title in 2002 for a few years, it appeared as a part of Mera (Medical Education Resource Africa) journal which also incorporated the excellent African Health Sciences journal as well as sister journals, the African Journal of Diabetes Medicine, and the African Journal of Respiratory Medicine. But it did not really matter under what name it existed – it was always produced to a high quality in terms of content and appearance. Now Africa Health has its own website @ http://www.africa-health.com/ with almost all the content available for free, online.

A few years ago, I finally met the brain behind getting Africa Health out to the African continent despite, the odds.  I heard from him the amazing story of how it has evolved. The journal was launched in 1978 by IPC Middle East Publishing Co Ltd (now part of Reed Elsevier) from an office in Morden, South London. The first editor was Ken Edghill who employed Bryan to be the Feature Writer for the title at its launch. Bryan took over as Editor in 1983, and then in 1985, effected a management buyout to set up what is now FSG Communications Ltd as an independent entity. Bryan Pearson bought the title back at the end of 2001, relaunched FSG Communications Ltd, and took over again as editor in a slimmed down operation.

One obvious question is; what is the business model? Well, apparently it is a mixture of grants, advertising and subscription – but it has never been easy getting AH to colleagues all over the continent…not easy at all. Bryan appears to be constantly in search of funding to sustain the journal. Another obvious question is how this journal is distributed across Africa, and to this he has developed a complex system of distribution involving a group in every country that clears copies from customs and then organises distribution in country. Bryan’s stories on how he keeps the show on the road are absolutely amazing! I have encouraged him to start work on his autobiography….

What drives him I ask….he describes the work of his father, an eminent colleague Dr Andrew Pearsen. Dr Pearsen worked at the Wesley Guild Hospital, a Methodist foundation at Ilesha in Western Nigeria for 23 years of his life. Ilesha became the centre of world attention for its innovative and effective approach to both preventive and curative medicine. Bryan himself has become inextricably linked to Ilesha!

With eminent colleagues like Professor Shima Gyoh, former Chairman of the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria maintaining a regular column, “Africa Health” continues to grow from strength to strength as a resource for continuous professional development on the continent.

Long may it feature on the desks of physicians around the continent!

Click here to subscribe to Africa Health…and never miss the quiz!


Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has…Margaret Mead

Chikwe Ihekweazu is an epidemiologist and consultant public health physician. He is the Editor of Nigeria Health Watch, and the Managing Partner of EpiAfric (www.epiafric.com), which provides expertise in public health research and advisory services, health communication and professional development. He previously held leadership roles at the South African National Institute for Communicable Diseases and the UK's Health Protection Agency. Chikwe has undertaken several short term consultancies for the World Health Organisation, mainly in response to major outbreaks. He is a TED Fellow and co-curator of TEDxEuston.

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