A Consultant Cardiologist, Dr Amam Mbakwem says a lot of tropical diseases such as syphilis and trypanosomiasis are constituting a health challenge to people living in the tropics.

Mbakwem, a consultant at the College of Medicine, Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba, therefore, called on the Federal Government to fund research into such diseases to reduce the rate of infection in the country.

The consultant met the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Friday in Lagos on the sidelines of a Cardiovascular Symposium with the theme, "Advancing Cardiovascular Education, Research and Patient Care.’’

"There are a lot of diseases that affect mainly people in the tropics and they don’t really affect people in the western world. And because it is not a problem in the western world, nobody is doing much about them; not much research is going on about them and it is a lot of burden on people in the tropics (thereby causing) mobidity, mortality.

"And then what we have are old drugs and some of them actually affect the heart directly and some indirectly. Things like trypanosomiasis, things like schizosomiasis, even things like syphilis are now being neglected tropical diseases because they are no longer a problem for the western world.

"So, these ones affect the heart directly and then the problem is that we have traditional risk factors for heart diseases, the smoking, the diabetes, the obesity, not eating right, a lot of sugar, a lot of oil.

"Those ones are there, and then they mix with these other neglected tropical diseases. So they could be contributing much more to the risk burden that our people carry than people who just have the traditional risk factors."

·She urged the Federal Government to channel more resources into research of diseases that affect the heart.

She said: "I think our government needs to look back, look inwards and try and put a lot more resources (into) local research because the white man is not going to research on these things.

"But we have to look inwards; the government has to help the local scientists by providing resources for research to go on, and even to describe the diseases and what exactly the causes are before we move on to the molecular levels of treatment and all the other things that will go with it."

Also speaking, Prof. Basil Okeahialam, a Consultant Cardiologist with the Jos University Teaching Hospital, Jos, identified ignorance, religious beliefs, and inadequate health systems were some of the challenges facing the management of heart-related diseases in the country.

"Challenges at various levels, ignorance is part of the thing; the person does not believe that this can happen. We have an idea of what is white man’s disease, I mean it can happen to me that is one ignorance.

"Two, I call it the new wave of religious favour; people will say it is not my portion, my God lives and this cannot happen to me.

"The diseases are not designed for some particular people; these are natural situations; if you do this, this is the consequence.

"No matter how religious we think we are, actions carry reactions; you don’t say I am a child of God, I will take whatever it is, and God will not live to have that happen to me.

"The other issues are challenges of the health system; for most of the time, the hospitals are on strike, so, the individuals who need help cannot get them and the private health system is not within the reach of most people.

"Then, what I call pharmacological imperialism, most times the drugs we have available to us as doctors to give to our patients are not dictated by us; they are brought from outside for us.

"So you have available drugs which do not work for the black people and then even though you can tell that that is the problem.

"You are not in a situation to cause the right drugs to come; it depends on what is available."

He urged healthcare professionals to educate people more on the need to live right, eat right, and take their medications appropriately.