Gbemisola Boyede — Providing Access to Child Health-Care InformationBy Temitayo Olofinlua
Published: December 20, 2016
This is part of our 2016 Radiant Health Women of Action series. The Radiant Health Women of Action is our annual highlight of inspiring African women taking action and doing remarkable work to improve the health and well-being of Africans.
Every day, Gbemisola Boyede, a consultant neurodevelopmental paediatrician at Lagos University Teaching Hospital, sees children with a variety of medical conditions. And every day, the child development specialist sees mothers making health decisions that they think best for their children, only for those decisions to become the beginning of nightmares.
In Nigeria, according to the World Bank, there are 69 infant deaths per 1,000 births; Boyede believes one of the reasons for this high number is late presentation to hospitals. Mothers will ask advice from other mothers, grandmothers or even the often times contradicting Dr. Google before heading to a hospital. Recently, this trend moved to social media, and Boyede was shocked by the wildly incorrect responses many women got to their questions.
Boyede, who is a fellow of the West African College of Physicians in paediatrics, responded by creating the Facebook group AskthePaediatricians (ATP). When the group started in 2015, ATP’s only member was Boyede; today, it has over 95,000 members and 10 active paediatricians.
“Ask the Paediatricians was born out of the passion to provide accurate information on childcare to mums, dads and caregivers,” says Boyede.
“Doctors in the house, pls how many months can a baby boy sit down?” asks one member of the group. In less than 30 minutes, a paediatrician responded with a link to a thread with information on child development.
ATP has hundreds of photos and posts, as well as a website with educational articles on child health care and responses to health questions specific to its Nigerian audience. The articles reveal an important phenomenon: broad local terms are often used to refer to a variety of different health conditions. “Jedi-jedi,” for example, could refer to diarrhea, dysentery or hemorrhoids, depending on the child’s individual case. ATP stresses the vital importance of visiting a qualified practitioner rather than self-medicating.
On October 1, 2016, ATP organized its first medical outreach to Makoko, a Lagos slum community with limited access to quality health care. Over 1,000 children were attended to by 155 volunteers, both medical and non-medical. The outreach featured health talks, health and nutritional assessments, deworming and a good meal for all of the children. Funding for the event was raised through a GoFundMe account and individual donations from friends.
Boyede is the recipient of multiple merit scholarship awards, including the Provost Prize and College Prize for the Best Overall Student of the College of Medicine at the University of Lagos in 1997-98. She was also named the best senior registrar of the Department of Pediatrics LUTH in 2010. These days, the busy mother of two is even busier with her ATP schedule, but she is excited about its impact.
“We are improving child survival in Nigeria, one mother at a time, through access to the paediatricians on social media who are providing evidence-based information at no cost,” she says.
Boyede has big dreams for ATP, which will soon be registered as a foundation in order to be financially sustainable. She also sees it as an avenue for the dissemination of information about children’s health care.
“I see us running child health education programs on radio, television, internet, TV. We are also planning to have the ATP app for people on smartphones,” Boyede adds.
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