THE family is the basic unit of society and determines the health outcome of the community and nation, a Consultant Family Physician, Dr Oluwajimi Shodipo says.
Shodipo made the assertion when he spoke with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Monday in Lagos as Nigerians join in commemorating the International Day of Families (IDF) marked annually on May 15.
NAN reports that the theme of the 2017 IDF is “Families, Education and Well-being’’.
“The family is the basic relational unit and most members share genetic risk and may have similar life style; the family is therefore the primary source of health related beliefs, behaviours and support.
“The unit has a prominent role on health, including having positive influences such as health promotion by advising and encouraging healthy practices such as breastfeeding.
“Also, caring for sick members in the hospital or at home, including home-based care, especially in chronic medical illnesses and provision of financial support for sick members at home.
“The family also provides social and emotional support for ill family members, especially in chronic medical illnesses like cancers, psychiatric illnesses like depression and schizophrenia,” he said.
The physician, however, said that the family could have negative effect on their members by encouraging unhealthy practices like use of traditional medications, insisting against use of hospitals and orthodox medications.
According to him, poor family relationships can also lead to psychological problems and promote alcohol abuse, depression and substance abuse.
“Some families take advantage of children by sexually abusing them, now a common occurrence in the society, especially young children,’’ Shodipo said.
He said that the average Nigerian family currently had challenges depending on the stage of the family.
According to him, the actualising stage involves when parents are elderly and most children have left the home.
“Nigeria currently has a huge migration of youths from rural to urban centres, and from within the country to foreign countries.
“This has led to empty nest syndrome as the elderly are all alone with no one to care for them; this is in addition to poverty even for youths who stay with the elderly, no pension and no health insurance.
“For all stages, there is the challenge of culture and religion which at times prevents members of the family from adopting healthy practices and orthodox medicine.
“Some of these include not taking vaccination, not allowing for operations, including caeserian section, using herbs with increasing liver and kidney problems and high maternal and paediatric morbidity and mortality.
“As for a family with adolescent children, there are problems with truancy, substance abuse, alcohol abuse, sexual problems, including rape.
“This problem is worsened by the work schedule of parents with little time for the children, combined with poverty levels preventing parents from providing basic needs for the children,’’ he said.
According to the United Nations (UN), the 2017 observance of the IDF focuses on the role of families and family-oriented policies in promoting education and overall wellbeing of their members.
“In particular, the Day is to raise awareness on the role of families in promoting early childhood education and lifelong learning opportunities for children and the youth,’’ the UN said.
NAN reports that in the context of human society, a family is a group of people affiliated either by consanguinity (recognised birth), affinity (by marriage or other relationship), or co-residence (as implied by the etymology of the English word “family’’) or some combination of these.
Members of the immediate family may include spouses, parents, brothers, sisters, sons, and daughters.
Members of the extended family may include grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews, nieces, and siblings-in-law.
Sometimes these are also considered members of the immediate family, depending on an individual’s specific relationship with them.