Chronic disease during a pandemic: how can health systems become more resilient during crises and how can medical students advocate and support it?

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Katumi Jimoh, a level 500 medical student at Bayero University Kano, Kano state, Nigeria. She is affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

   Chronic diseases are non-infectious diseases seen in almost all households. A chronic disease is a disease lasting more than a year and requires continuous medical attention and limitations to certain daily activities. Examples  of this disease include hypertension, diabetes mellitus and others.

Pandemic is an epidemic of an infectious disease that has spread across a large region, affecting a substantial number of individuals.

Chronic diseases during a pandemic pose a large burden on the health care facilities, so the need to reduce this burden is important to improve the quality of care given to patients,which is the goal of the health sector.

The health sector can withstand the crises of the pandemic by encouraging and utilizing telemedical practice to deliver health services to their patients with chronic health issues at home, this will limit their exposure to those who are infected with the pandemic and reduce the spread of the disease.

Staff should be trained specially on chronic disease, its management, how to identify life threatening symptoms and signs, they should be assigned to a specific number of patients, with both patients and health care provider well protected, this will reduce the number of contacts health providers have with patients and reduce the spread of infectious diseases.

The  follow-up visit of the patients with chronic disease should be when they have complaints and patients should be taught how to monitor their health, danger signs or symptoms.

Vaccination should be encouraged, vaccinating health care workers to prevent transmission to patients and vaccinating patients with chronic diseases will prevent them from being infected or if infected will reduce the severity.

Screening service should be organized by the health sector for those with chronic health conditions whenever they come to the clinic for follow up.

Patients with chronic health conditions should be educated on their vulnerability to the pandemic and the preventive measures to be taken.

   The medical students play a role by also being vaccinated, taking preventive measures, because they also come in close contact with these patients, have elderly with chronic disease at home.

The use of smartphone for enlightening the public cannot be over-emphasized, it is one of the fastest and easiest means to reach a large number of the population, sending messages on the vulnerability of those with chronic health disease to the pandemic, preventive measures to be taken by family members and patients which include vaccination, good hygiene practice, good nutrition, use of protective coverings, social distancing etc, isolation of those infected and those with symptoms of infection should visit the hospital for early diagnosis and treatment.

   Door to door outreach programs can be organized by students to reach out to those in rural areas without means of communication, to educate and enlighten them, provide materials such as face masks, hand sanitizer etc to the people, screen those with chronic health disease and under the supervision of a specialized health personnel, place them on medications, this will help bring health services to their door steps.

About the author

Katumi Jimoh is a level 500 medical student at Bayero University Kano, Kano state, Nigeria. She is someone with ideas and recently became an avid writer. She is someone who is passionate about new knowledge and its application in her daily life activities, and how it will influence her to become a better person and have a better future. She is passionate about giving her own quota to societal development and helping the needy in any way she is capable of. She loves engaging in conversation that will broaden her scope of thinking, traveling places and admiring nature.

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