03 Oct 2017 Speech Text: Address by the OCI Foundation’s President, delivered on the occassion of the Foundations inaugural health symposium (September 28th, 2017)
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, Speeches By OCI
SPEECH BY THE FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT OF THE OCI FOUNDATION, DR. CHRIS IFEDIORA,
AT THE INAUGURAL (2017) SESSION OF THE FOUNDATION’S HEALTH SYMPOSIUM
BREAST SELF-EXAMINATION AND THE CREATION OF AWARENESS FOR THE PREVENTION OF BREAST AND CERVICAL CANCERS AMONG YOUNG WOMEN
Date: Thursday September 28th, 2017.
Venue: Stella Maris College, Umueri, Anambra State, Nigeria.
Distinguished guests, ladies, and gentlemen,
Today, you are witnesses to the very first health program of the Onyebuchi Chris Ifediora Foundation, also known as the OCI Foundation.
The dream that gave birth to this event has taken years to formulate, plan, and finally, implement.
The dream, friends, has always been to find ways of creating a society where everyone feels empowered to take control of his or her own health, irrespective one’s financial, social, cultural, religious, and educational disposition.
Today, the OCI Foundation takes the first of many steps in actualizing her dream of knocking down barriers to the attainment of good and affordable health for all and sundry. Our Foundation may not have the financial or political power to create or implement major health policies that will affect millions of Nigerians, but we surely do have the commitment and skills to empower our people in ways that they can take control of their health.
We agree that we may not change the entire world just yet, but today, we assure everyone that we do hope to change individual knowledge, attitudes and practices towards some key health issues affecting our women. And when we do change these, perhaps, we may just change the world afterall.
Ladies and gentlemen, our health programs are aligned with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We believe that Health is Wealth, and that, if we can help create a healthy society, then we would have helped create a wealthy society.
For the records, the OCI Foundation was established in 2016, with the primary aim of bridging the health and educational divides between the rich and the poor in our communities. Our educational projects are already ongoing, and, it might interest everyone here to know that, in our very first year of activity (i.e., 2017), we awarded 19 scholarships to brilliant but less privileged students and pupils across junior secondary, senior secondary, and tertiary institutions.
Today, however, we are focused on health, and our mission is to empower our young women by showing them simple but effective ways to prevent the deadly duo of breast and cervical cancers.
In the developed world, research shows that about one out every eight women will develop breast cancer, while cancer of the cervix is the 4th commonest cancer facing them. Even though the rates of these cancers in developing countries, of which Nigeria is one, is supposedly less than the scary figures just quoted, the increasingly westernized lifestyles of our women brings their collective risks to levels similar to these numbers from developed economies.
Unfortunately, while women in developed countries are offered free screenings to prevent and detect these cancers early, we in Nigeria, as in many other developing countries, have no such basic system in place. More worryingly, even when these cancers are diagnosed in our communities, majority of those affected lack the funds to undertake the effective treatments. Even among the wealthy, who may be privileged to have the financial prowess to undertake proper medical care, the treatments often come too late, as most of the cancers are diagnosed in advanced stages.
For those who are lucky survive these deadly cancers, the heavy financial costs of undergoing the required treatments, as well as the inevitable physical and psychological complications associated with them, make the prospect of facing such illnesses unpalatable.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, it is not all bad news. Today, the OCI Foundation, in partnership with the Foundation for Health and Development, bring good news to us all. The news is that, with the right knowledge, the right attitude, and the right practices, the risks of breast and cervical cancers can be minimized. This is the good news we bring today, and this is the task we have taken upon ourselves. We provide this service free to our targeted beneficiaries, and we intend to make it an annual event.
We acknowledge the fact that, whether one is rich or poor, educated or not educated, tall or short, pretty or not-so-pretty, the real winners in our society against these cancers are those empowered to detect the symptoms early. The real winners, we hope, are those sitting here today, privileged to witness this health symposium, as well as those that will be reached afterwards, through our handouts and the media publicity that will follow this event. The real winners, ladies and gentlemen, are those who will practice what we will preach today.
We have started with our young women, who are largely in their mid to late teens. Why this demographic, one may ask? Afterall, these cancers are not common among them.
The answer, ladies and gentlemen, lies in the simple fact that this age group is keen to learn, and are at an impressionable stage of their lives. Most of them still live with their parents, and would likely live with, or relate to, other female family members. They are also young, with lots of years ahead of them, and therefore have the potential to make friends and meet many people as they go into the world. Of course, most of them will soon get into the tertiary institutions, and thereafter, get into employments.
For these reasons just stated, we believe that empowering this age group, at this point in their lives, is the best way that our message and efforts will get amplified and projected to as many people as possible. It is therefore our expectation that, the knowledge they garner today, will be useful, not just to them, but also to their mothers, sisters, aunties and other family friends, as well as their classmates, friends, and future work colleagues. We also believe that these young women are mothers-to-be, and the lessons from today will be useful to their daughters and grand-daughters as well.
Distinguished guests, today, we are here to discuss ways of detecting the early-warning signs of breast and cervical cancers. We are here to teach our young women what breast awareness is all about, and how they can regularly look for symptoms that will alert them to danger. We will also teach them lifestyle changes that they may need to adopt in other to limit the occurrence of breast and cervical cancers.
Among our activities for the day is a lecture from a Consultant Public Health Medicine Physician, Dr. Emmanuel Azuike of the Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University School of Medicine. He is also the Founder of the Foundation for Health and Development (FHDN), the group partnering the OCI Foundation in this health symposium.
Following his lecture, there will be a 20-minute video presentation, which will teach us all the techniques of breast self-examination. Please, when you watch the video, remember that there are two different parts, both relaying the same message, but presented slightly differently. The idea of the two-in-one video is to ensure that the message is driven home emphatically, and that all parts of the BSE is covered.
Distinguished guests, this health symposium will not really end today. The OCI Foundation has a plan to evaluate the knowledge, attitudes and practices of these young participants 6 months from now. This measure, already worked out with the leadership of the PPSSC, Otuocha Zone, is in place so as to ensure that our efforts today will have the desired effects. The planned evaluation will also help us improve on the delivery of this program in the future, which, as already stated, is expected to be an annual event.
To be clear, the female SSS 3 students from the participating schools who are not here today, will equally benefit from our program. Handouts with comprehensive information on the prevention of breast and cervical cancers, as well as breast self-examination, will be distributed to everyone (including those not here today) through their respective school principals. I therefore enjoin all the various school principals to ensure that every single SSS 3 girl in their respective schools gets a copy of our handout.
We also have plans that all guests present here today will get a copy of our handout. The males among you can give it to their wives, daughters and friends.
Ladies and gentlemen, even though our current health program is limited to the three local governments in Otuocha Zone of Anambra State (Anambra east, Anambra West and Ayamelum), we wish to put it on record that, with time, we intend to carry out projects in the rest of Anambra State, and, God-willing, to as many parts of the Nigerian nation and the African continent as possible.
To achieve this dream, we hope to acquire more resources and align with more like-minded partners, both governmental and non-governmental. We in the OCI Foundation already have the desire, the commitment, the skills, the ideas, and the manpower to deliver effective, realistic, practicable, and culturally-acceptable health activities to our people. We therefore invite anyone, groups and individuals, who share our vision and passion, to join us in lifting our communities. If you do not personally have this passion, feel free to link us up to those who do.
In rounding up, I again say welcome to everyone, and enjoin us all to relax, pay attention, and take in as much lessons as you can from the activities we have lined up today. These lessons will last us all a lifetime, and can save, not just our lives, but those of our families, friends and colleagues.
I wish you all a smooth and safe journey back home. Please, remember to share the lessons from here with friends and acquaintances. By doing this, you would have partnered with the OCI Foundation, as WE RISE, BY LIFITNG OTHERS.