Thursday, 19 June 2014

Traditional Medicine Stakeholders Forum held at the Media Centre, News Agency of Nigeria, Iganmu, Lagos on Thursday, March 20, 2014

Rapporteur’s Report/Communiqué

 A.     Background
1.     The forum was organized by the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria, APCON, and the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC.  It has the objective of sensitizing stakeholders in the production and promotion of traditional medicine products and practices on prevailing regulations and to seek their active collaboration and compliance towards ensuring a wholesome communication environment in this sector.
2.     About 515 participants drawn from the various arms of the mass media, representatives of organizations which engage in production and marketing of trado-medicine products, officials of APCON, NBC and NAFDAC, and members of the public, attended the forum.
3.     The forum opened with a welcome address presented by the Chairman of APCON, Lolu Akinwunmi, in which he reiterated the purpose of the forum, appreciated the various stakeholders who responded to the invitation to participate in the forum and hoped that the engagement would usher in a new era of responsible communication of trado-medicine offerings.  He explained that government could have used stiff legislation to stop unhealthy trado-medicine communications, but it chose to engage with the practitioners to secure voluntary compliance to appropriate regulations by APCON, NBC and NAFDAC.
4.     In their goodwill messages, the Hon. Minister of Health, represented by Mr. Mashood Lawal, and the Hon. Minister of Information, represented by Mr. Emeka Mba, congratulated APCON and NBC for their well thought out initiative in seeking a collaborative solution to the disturbing pattern of promoting traditional medicine in the mass media which have tended to abuse public sensibilities and endanger the wellbeing of those who respond to those unwholesome communications.  They called on stakeholders to take a cue from the way orthodox medicines are communicated and endeavour to promote their products in scientific and peer group media, limiting their claims to scientifically verifiable attributes of the products.  They hoped the outcome of the forum would be embraced by the stakeholders.
5.     Presentations were made by the Director-General of National Broadcasting Commission, NBC, Mr. Emeka Mba  the Registrar/Chief Executive Officer of APCON, Alh. Garba Bello Kankarofi, and Deputy Director NAFDAC, Mrs. Phebean M. Odu in which they expressed dismay at the preponderant violations of the Codes of Practice which guide the production and exposure of advertisements and programmes relating to traditional medicine products and practices.  They proceeded to outline these regulations and to explain their implications for both sponsors of such advertisements and programmes as well as the mass media which provide platforms for exposure of the advertisements and programmes.

B.     Observations
The forum observed that:
1.     Traditional Medicine remains an indispensable component of Nigeria’s health services and practices, patronized by a large percentage of the population.  It should therefore be integrated into the nation’s health delivery system in a manner that protects users of traditional medicine and the general public.
2.     There is need for a Council to control the practice of traditional medicine and establish standards for admission into the practice.  Specific training programmes also need to be organized from time to time to educate traditional medicine practitioners on various regulatory requirements to guarantee compliance.
3.     Government should invest in research in traditional medicine and empower traditional medicine practitioners to contribute to the country’s health delivery.  The current scope and functions of NAFDAC should be reviewed to accommodate better the interests of traditional medicine.
4.     Many practitioners of traditional medicine indulge in unwholesome marketing communications which mislead the public and exploit the weakness of people who have health challenges.
5.     All over the world, countries provide guidelines for the broadcast of health-related programmes and Nigeria cannot be an exception.
6.     Traditional Medicine practitioners have not subjected their practice to regulation and this has given room to influx of various forms of alternative medicine products and practices from other countries.
7.     Though sponsors are required to ensure that their communications are compliant with applicable regulations, media organizations will be held responsible for violations of the relevant Codes by any materials exposed in their media.

C.     Resolutions
1.     A working Committee is to be formed incorporating APCON, NBC, NAFDAC and various trado-medical bodies to achieve a wholesome practice.
2.     Forum underscored the indispensability of traditional medicine in the healthcare delivery system of a country like Nigeria which has relied on it for centuries with a degree of success.
3.     Broadcasting and Advertising are regulated practices.  Thus trado-medical practitioners promoting their products must comply with the provided guidelines.
Regulations applicable to medical products do not discriminate between orthodox and traditional medicine and both are required to comply with the regulations to receive approvals by NBC, APCON and NAFDAC.
4.     Participants resolved to acquaint themselves with the guidelines on traditional medicine advertising and programming provided in the relevant Codes and to comply strictly with them.
5.     It was also resolved that traditional medicine practitioners should always engage the services of relevant communications professionals in designing, producing and exposing their promotional messages so as to obtain greater value and comply with applicable regulations.
6.     The National Assembly are called to expedite action on the passage of the Trado-Medical Council bill.

Communiqué Group
  • Mr. Joe-Eugene Onuorah
  • Mr. Eki Adzufeh
  • Mrs. Ojone B. Otonoku
  • Mr. Ibrahim Isa Wada
  • Mr. Mathew Okoduwa

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