The Chairman, Sickle Cell Foundation, Nigeria, Prof Olu Akinyanju, has expressed regrets over the lack of capacity building and research in the Nigerian healthcare system.
He spoke in Lagos on Saturday at the 14th Closing/Certificate Award Ceremony of the Genetic Counselling Training Course on Sickle Cell Disorder (SCD), sponsored by the MTN Foundation.
Akinyanju particularly bemoaned the problem as it affected the management and control of SCD.
He said that the nation's investment in public healthcare services was low unlike in the UK and U.S., where persons with SCD had an average life expectancy of nearly 60 years.
According to him, the average life expectancy for one with SCD in those countries was embarrassingly longer than the average life expectancy of 47 years for Nigerians living with the ailment.
He said that despite the fact that health is wealth, Nigeria had never allocated resources close to the recommendation of the World Health Organisation.
The chairman said that genetic counselling had been widely identified as the most cost effective intervention for initiating sickle cell programming, particularly in resource poor countries such as Nigeria.
He said that the genetic counsellors provided their clients (affected persons) and their parents with necessary information to assist them in understanding the inheritance pattern which would help them cope better with the disorder and also enable them to make informed lifestyle decisions.
"Trained counsellors also help to establish and run support of sickle cell clubs, create awareness and promote the development of dedicated sickle cell clinics in communities," he said.
Akinyanju said that research had shown that free access to genetic counselling and required treatment would go a long way in reducing death rates caused by SCD.
He added that as more affected persons were attaining middle and old ages, the hope was that with more research, SCD would be converted from a childhood disorder into one which would eventually be compatible with a normal quality life.
He urged government at all levels to invest in capacity building in the area of genetic counselling, as it was a good way to reduce the burden of the disorder in the country.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the 23 participants were given certificates at the genetic counselling training organised by the foundation. (NAN)