The following post, written by our team member Ifeanyi Nsofor, pictures the difficulties he encountered when trying to access texts on health in Nigeria. Consequently the post introduces a new feature of the Nigeria Health Watch Website, which will make your own research in the future so much easier.
I remember how difficult it was to access medical literature as a medical student 16 years ago at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University. Internet coverage was still in its infancy in Nigeria. To download PDF documents of less than 1 megabyte, we toiled all through the night at the only internet café close to the teaching hospital! Sometimes, I wonder how much easier and more productive my undergraduate days would have been if we had had ready access to the internet the way we do currently. Similarly, as a postgraduate student at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, with its world class virtual and physical libraries, it was always difficult to get information about Nigeria; any time I had to develop research papers on different health issues in Nigeria, I struggled. Having worked in Nigeria’s public health sector for nine years before studying for my postgraduate degree, I had come across lots of publications, but most were not readily available online or offline.
In today’s global village, there is no longer an excuse for not learning new things. Internet penetration in urban parts of Nigeria is widespread and information is at our fingertips. Millions of Nigerians own smart phones and access the internet with ease. However, anyone who has tried to conduct research on Nigeria would still face a herculean task. This is not to say that individuals and institutions have not published widely on health in Nigeria. The challenge has always been having ready access to such publications.
This is where Nigeria Health Watch (NHW) is stepping in, as the number one health blog in Nigeria. On this platform, we put health back on the agenda; blogging on various health issues every Tuesday and curating our weekly top 10 news items out of Nigeria every Friday. NHW is the non-profit arm of the public health consulting social enterprise EpiAFRIC. An aspect of our areas of engagement at EpiAFRIC is building a world class physical and virtual portal for data and resources. We have started this task by creating the first and largest online collection of health publications on Nigeria available at https://nigeriahealthwatch.comresources/.
Creating the NHW resources portal is our contribution to improving the body of knowledge in Nigeria by making free information about Nigeria’s health system readily available to everyone anywhere in the world. The documents are from different publishers including the Federal Ministry of Health, Federal and state government agencies, local NGOs, international NGOs, donors, foundations and a host of other actors in Nigeria’s health space.
Curating these resources was not easy. Sometimes, we manually scanned and created PDF versions of publications for which we could not find electronic versions. Although it was tasking and time consuming, it is a social responsibility we take seriously. We have organized the NHW resource portal into 48 categories for ease of use. The categories include maternal and child health, reproductive health, water and sanitation, HIV/AIDS, health insurance, disease surveillance, health evaluation, cancers, nutrition, and family planning. There is a “search” button that enables any user to comb through the 48 categories and locate the publication(s) of choice.
The “search” button is unique in the way results of a search are organised. For example, a search for “maternal” displays the relevant publications arranged by category. The benefit of this functionality is that it allows a researcher to immediately sieve through publications that are relevant to the topic he/she is researching about. In a way, one could say, it is a “smart search” function.
This is just the beginning of our efforts to ensure that everybody interested in learning about Nigeria’s health system can do so effortlessly. We will continuously grow the number of publications available on the NHW resources portal. In the long term, we plan to have a physical resources hub located within our office, where researchers can visit and have access to publications on health in Nigeria.
With the emergence of the NHW resources portal, we have reduced the hurdles to access health publications on Nigeria for all interested in learning about Nigeria’s health system. We hope that this resource portal will contribute to improving the health system. Health planners and managers can learn from what their predecessors did in the past and develop better plans for the future. We invite all who are interested in Nigeria’s health system to make use of this resource portal. As you do so, please give us feedback regularly to help us improve this service.