Adaku Efuribe is a British-Nigerian pharmacist, wellbeing coach, SDG Advocate, and blogger. The founder of Ask Your Pharmacist with Adaku (AYPWA) and a Youth Ambassador of the ONE Campaign loves taking care of people of all ages. In this interview by KINGSLEY ALUMONA, she speaks about her life growing up in Nigeria, health and wellbeing, as well as what she would do if she were the minister of health.
Briefly tell us the circumstances behind your British-Nigerian status.
I am a Nigerian. I was born in London, which makes me British by birth.
What was your experience like growing up in Nigeria? And, were your parents and siblings with you during those periods?
I had a fantastic experience growing up in Nigeria—mine was a close-knit family with parents and siblings always around. I grew up in the Senior Staff Quarters of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN). My childhood memories included lots of fun visiting the Children’s Centre Library; engaging in arts, crafts and drama, as well as spending time with my dad in his study room reading newspapers, novels and text books. I started cooking when I was in primary school, so I used to shop at the local market with my mum on weekends.
What motivated you to study pharmacy? Which universities did you study from and what were your experiences there?
I love looking after people, and I had a caring attitude as a child. I developed special interest in healthcare, drug discovery/drug formulation. Growing up in a university environment, there were a few professors of Pharmacy who lived close to our home and I used to admire their laudable achievements. My parents supported me in pursuing my dream of being a ‘drug expert’.
I completed my B.pharm. at the University of Nigeria, then completed my PGD in Pharmaceutical Sciences and PCert in Independent Prescribing at the University of Sunderland and University of Leeds in the UK respectively. Studying pharmacy in UNN was very tedious. I had to complete my practicals in the afternoon and would often arrive late for my basketball training. I was a member of the female basketball team and represented the University at the West African University Games in Ghana.
My experience in the UK was a bit different. The school library was bigger and more equipped. I was surprised I could call my lecturers/professors by their first name, and communication was easier.
What inspired you to found Ask Your Pharmacist with Adaku (AYPWA)? How has it contributed to public health, especially in Nigeria?
I had awful experience with family and friends back home in Nigeria where their medications were prescribed and dispensed by medical practitioners deliberately refusing to label the names of the dispensed medication. There was lack of medicines reconciliation as a result, and a few patients’ suffered adverse effects and drug-drug interactions.
AYPWA was birthed out of the desire to make a positive change in Nigeria by highlighting the need for integrated healthcare, patient-centred care and multidisciplinary team approach towards healthcare delivery. AYPWA promotes the role of pharmacists and provides free education/support for patients who have long-term conditions. It encourages people to engage in healthy lifestyles and self-care which would reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and premature death.
You are currently a 2019 Youth Ambassador of the ONE Campaign. What is the organisation about, and what is your job description there?
The ONE Campaign is an international campaigning organisation that fights extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa, by raising public awareness and pressuring political leaders to support policies and programmes that are saving lives and improving futures. My role as ONE Youth Ambassador is to raise public awareness and to press political leaders to combat AIDS and preventable diseases like TB and Malaria in sub-Saharan Africa. I also promote the positive impact that UK aid has around the world and would be campaigning around the G7 meeting of government leaders to ask them to take action on extreme poverty.
As a United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Advocate, which of the goal(s) are you interested in? And, in what ways are you trying to achieve the goal(s)?
My area of interest for the UN SDG goals is Goal 3—Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages. I’m a strong advocate of Universal Health Coverage. My health promotion initiative, AYPWA, partners with the SDG Action campaign. Periodically, I run health and wellbeing campaigns. I partner with other international organisations working towards achieving SDG 3.
As a health and well being coach, what do you think the Nigerian society is not doing to curb the increasing suicide rate in the country?
We need an effective, comprehensive, multi-sectorial national response strategy for suicide prevention in Nigeria. The Nigerian society is not improving the mental health and well being of the populace. People with mental health issues in Nigeria are often stigmatised. We need to create more education and support for people with mental health issues. Also, we are not effectively restricting access to the means for suicide works. Restricting access to the most common means like pesticides, firearms and certain medications would go a long way in reducing the suicide rate.
Early identification and effective management of mental health disorders and harmful use of alcohol and drugs are essential to ensuring that people receive the care and the support they need. The Nigerian Government needs to create suitable policies and enabling environment to support this.
If you were the minister of health, what would you do to encourage rural/community healthcare and to checkmate the proliferation of fake drugs in the country?
To encourage rural/community healthcare, I would utilise the integrated healthcare model service delivery and train/equip more community healthcare workers so that people get the care they need, when they need it, in ways that are user-friendly to help achieve patient centred care and value for money. This would ensure no one is left out of basic universal health coverage at the grassroots.
An effective way to checkmate proliferation of fake drugs in Nigeria is to close down the open drug markets; establish manufacturing hubs, state drug distribution companies and ensure only licensed pharmacists/pharmacies are fully in charge of drug distribution. Enforcement remains severely handicapped by weak laws and regulations for tackling counterfeiters. So, we need to ensure we have the mechanisms in place to enact and enforce laws to checkmate proliferation of fake drugs.
In your article entitled “My experience with ‘subtle racism’ in the UK” you talked about how you dealt with racial comments and racism. In what ways do you think someone of colour could cope with racial-related psychological deficits in Western world?
In the first instance, if affected by racial comments, one needs to apply emotional intelligence and get the support/help they need. In summary, I would say—get support, get empowered and practice self-care. Avoid bottling up anger and resentment.
Between Nigeria and the UK, which is truly home for you? And, what do you miss more about Nigeria when in the UK?
Home is Nigeria because I have a greater part of my family living in Nigeria. When I’m in the UK, I miss my local Nigerian food and sometimes have to import my favourite local pear-ube and organic soup ingredients from Nigeria.
What are the major challenges you face in your line of business? And, what do you like doing at your leisure?
I enjoy every bit of the work I do. Sometimes, collaborating with other international stakeholders remotely could be tedious due to different time zones and health policies. Most times, I sacrifice my holiday period for my advocacy activities. At my leisure, I enjoy cooking, reading and watching Nollywood movies.
What advice do you have for young people, especially the female ones, who are aspiring to be like you?
I would advise young people to start early, in discovering and developing themselves in their chosen fields of endeavour. In going through life’s journey, disappointments will come your way and if and when you fall, pick yourself up quickly and move on. Persistent handwork, without giving up, will surely take you there.