Life expectancy: Why Nigerians may live longer - Experts
A recent study by the United States Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) predicting a sharp rise in life expectancy in Nigeria comes as a soothing forecast as many Nigerians are no doubt agitated by the reality of dying at a relatively young
Life expectancy in Nigeria is said to be sharply low compared to developed countries, especially in Europe and America. In Nigeria, it hovers between 50 and 60 due to many factors ranging from poor standard of living, decrepit medical facilities and general lack of access to primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare.
All these have contributed to the abysmal life expectancy rate in Nigeria. Experts say poor funding of the health sector by successive governments have lowered life expectancy rate and access to quality health services is more like a mirage in the country.
While the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends 15 per cent budgetary allocation to the health sector, Nigeria’s health budget continues to hover around four to five per cent.
Amidst this prevalent abysmal funding of the sector, the IHME report came as a ray of hope for many Nigerians who yearn for longevity. The study predicted increase in life expectancy in Nigeria from the current 65 to 74.
The study by IHME, an independent global health research organization at the University of Washington, finds nearly 50 nations gaining 10 years or more in lifespans.
For example, Nigeria, with an average life expectancy of 65.0 years in 2016, ranked 156th among 195 nations.
However, according to the report, if recent health trends continue, Nigeria could rank 123rd in 2040 with an average life expectancy of 74.8 years, an increase of 9.8 years.
“Nigeria’s life expectancy could increase by as many as 14.2 years in a better health scenario or as few as 5.1 years in a worse health scenario”, the report said.
The report also ranked other countries which would experience substantial rise in life expectancy.
In contrast, the United States in 2016 ranked 43rd with an average lifespan of 78.7 years. In 2040, life expectancy is forecast to increase only 1.1 years to 79.8, but dropping in rank to 64th. China, on the other hand, had a lifespan of 76.3 years in 2016 and is expected to increase to 81.9, raising its rank from 68th to 39th in 2040.
The report also noted that in 2016, the top 10 causes of premature deaths in Nigeria were malaria, diarrheal diseases, HIV/AIDS, neonatal encephalopathy due to birth asphyxia and trauma, lower respiratory infections, neonatal preterm birth complications, congenital birth defects, neonatal sepsis, meningitis, and proteinenergy malnutrition.
But in 2040, however, the leading causes are expected to be malaria, lower respiratory infections, HIV/ AIDS, diarrheal diseases, neonatal encephalopathy due to birth asphyxia and trauma, neonatal preterm birth complications, neonatal sepsis, congenital birth defects, meningitis and ischemic heart disease.
The study, published in the international medical journal The Lancet, projects a significant increase in deaths from non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), chronic kidney disease, and lung cancer, as well as worsening health outcomes linked to obesity.
It suggests “great potential to alter the downward trajectory of health” by addressing key risk factors, levels of education, and per capital income.
The future of the world’s health is not pre-ordained, and there is a wide range of plausible trajectories,” the Director of Data Science at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), Dr. Kyle Foreman, was quoted as saying.
“But whether we see significant progress or stagnation depends on how well or poorly health systems address key health drivers”, he added.
But as cheery as the report is, experts believe realizing the prediction maybe a mirage unless there is a deliberate move to increase health budgetary allocation from its present state. The focus, they said, should be on strengthening primary health care which would reduce the prevalence of non-communicable diseases which are the leading causes of death.
Mallam Auwal Ibrahim Musa, the Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), at a recent workshop in Lagos said, “The challenges facing health care in Nigeria are complex and essentially arising from poor legal and regulatory frameworks and implementation, economic and socio-cultural challenges as well as a dearth of infrastructure, health personnel and equipment plague the Nigerian primary health care system.”
The President of Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Ahmed Yakasai said Nigeria’s health sector is in dire need of funding. He advocated the implementation of one per cent revenue allocation from the Consolidated Revenue Fund to beef up funding in the sector. The one percent allocation was recently approved by the Nigerian Senate.
Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole