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The core of the Nigeria’s health policy is the primary health care. This is because it focuses more on health needs of the rural populace. An attempt has been made in this study to investigate the challenges of communicating Primary Health Care programme in rural communities in Niger State. Three local government areas were selected for this study. They include, Lapai, Suleja and Kotangora respectively. Both questionnaire and in-depth interview were used for response analyses. The study found out that, for the potential rural dwellers to be enhanced with the knowledge and information of Primary Health Care Services in the rural communities, both modern and traditional means of communication must work as a team, taking in to cognizance the unique socio-cultural context in which health actions are taken. Community should be involved in the critical stages of project planning, evaluation and decision making processes. To this end, the researcher recommends that both government and health providers should make adequate provision for environmental health and health education to improve the condition of health of the rural communities to attain the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of 2015 and beyond.
1.1 Background of the study
Health is the state of physical, mental and social well-being of an individual. Sani (2009:1) affirms that “it is the provision of essential drugs, appropriate treatment of common diseases, prevention and control of locally endemic diseases, food nutrition, dental health, environmental health and health education”. It is called the “first contact” treatment of a patient by health workers. There are three health care delivery systems, primary, secondary and tertiary. The main concern of this study is on primary health care delivery system. Sylvester (2011:1) in WHO/UNICEF/ (1978) avers that” primary health care is essential health care based on practical, scientifically sound and societally acceptable methods and technology made universally accessible to individuals and families in the communities through their full participation and at a cost that the communities and the countries can afford to maintain at every stage of their development in the spirit of self-reliance and self-determination”.
It can be deduced from the definition that Primary Health Care reflects and evolves from the economic conditions and socio-cultural and political characteristics of the country and its communities. It addresses the main health problems in the community, providing promotive, preventive, curative and rehabilitative services. Also it educates communities on prevailing health problems and the methods of preventing and controlling them as well as relates with other sectors such as Agriculture, education, finance, information among others for national and community development.
Primary Health Care forms an integral part of the country’s health system. It is the first level of contact of individuals, the family and the community with the national health system bringing health care as close as possible to where people live and work (Alma-ta 1978:2).
One of the characteristics of the rural dwellers in the developing countries is how to communicate with the health workers. Most of them in the rural communities are not highly educated and most of them understand and speak their dialects only (Sylvester, 2011). Communication has become fundamental to the successful implementation of primary health care, especially with the application of modern means of communication, especially mass media of communication.
Mass media, unlike interpersonal communication do not only educate, entertain, socialize and inform, they can also be used to promote health issues, transportation, security and cultural socialization (Wilson, 2009).
There are many challenges of communicating primary health care in the rural communities, such as transportation, sufficient funding, qualified personnel to mention but a few, but the major concern of the study is on communication. Achala (2010:4) contends that “mass media display information about health and make people aware so as to prevent the spread of various diseases”. Poor access to information is one of the major challenges of communicating primary health care. The situation is worsened by the high level of illiteracy among the rural populace. It is clear that mass media have encouraged the ability to acquire and use information in primary health care in all the rural communities in Niger state.
1.2 Statement of problem
Africa, precisely Nigeria has the potentials to develop all sectors of human endeavor more especially, if information services are fully enhanced in rural communities. Rural communities need a wide range of health information especially in the area of primary health care, such as tuberculosis, leprosy, disabled, mental illness, diagnostic services and referral services. But rural communities’ accessibility to this pertinent information still remains largely inadequate. Against the background of low level of illiteracy, where poverty reigns, the income per capital is extremely low and the general mistrust of information available to them, where there is no effective treatment of primary health care might lead to high rate of mortality and morbidity as well as slows the rate of development in the rural areas and Niger state in general. This study is therefore set to investigate the challenges of communicating primary health care information on the health care activities of the rural communities in Niger state.
1.3 Objectives of the study
The main objective of this study is to find out the challenges of communicating primary health care in rural areas of Niger State. Other objective includes:
1. To determine the major sources of information on primary health care in rural communities in Niger State.
2. To find out if the rural communities in Niger State have contact with the primary health care agents.
3. To find out the challenges facing primary health care workers in communicating with the rural communities in Niger State.
4. To find out if the rural dwellers have awareness and knowledge of primary health care programmes.
1.3 Research questions
1. What are the major sources of information on primary health care in the rural areas of Niger State?
2. Do the rural communities in Niger State have contact with primary health care agents?
3. What are the challenges facing the primary health workers in communicating with the rural communities in Niger State?
4. Do the rural dwellers have awareness and knowledge of primary health care programmes in Niger State?
1.4 Significance of the study
One of the principal aims of primary health care is the provision of essential drugs, treatment of common diseases, environmental health care and health education. This study will contribute towards creating awareness and knowledge to shape the impression of average rural populace and policy makers alike on primary health care scheme.
The study will also help the rural dwellers to maintain excellent health system and prevent them from various threatening diseases.
This study will encourage positive change among the rural communities at large to commit their health problems to medical experts due to exposure to positive health information provided by the press.
1.5 Scope of the study
This study will cover the rural communities in Niger State and ascertain the challenges of communicating primary health care within the rural populace. Niger State has 25 local government areas. The study will focus on three local government areas, namely, Lapai, Suleja and Kotangora, because they have the characteristics of both urbanized and rural communities and align with the geo-political structure of the State i.e. A, B and C respectively by the State government. They have also the largest population amongst the local government areas of the State.
1.6 DEFINITION OF TERMS
Communication: it is the process of exchanging ideas and feelings between people.
Primary Health Care: This is the care given to the patient in the rural areas by the health workers.
Rural Communication: It is the means of exchanging of ideas and feelings among
Members of the society.
Endemic Disease: This is the living in a defined geographical aarea.
Challenges: Specific problems associated with an issue.
Abiodum, A.S. (2010), Patients’ Satisfaction with Quality Attributes of Primary Health Care: Service in Nigeria.
Alma-ta, (1978). Primary Health Care Geneva, World Health Organization 1978.
Federal Ministry of Health (1988). The National Health Policy and Strategy to Achieve Health for all in Nigeria: Lagos, Federal Ministry of Health Publication.
Sani, G. (2011). “Management of Primary Health Care: In Local Government in Nigeria”. Karaye gmail. com.
Sylvester, O. A. (2011) “Environmental Health Management and Practice”: In Nigeria. http://unLL is.unl.edu/Lppi.
Wilson, D. (2009). Communication Approaches to Peace Building: in Nigeria African Council for Communication Education University of Uyo Nigeria.
World Health Organization (1991). Health Promotion in Development Countries. Briefing book to the Sundsvall Conference on Supporting Environment, Geneva.
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