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Expert urges deployment of STI in identifying public health needs

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Prof. Olalekan Akinbo of the African Union Development Agency (AUDA –NEPAD), has called for the deployment of Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) to identify public health needs and cost effective packages of healthcare.

Akinbo told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Friday in Abuja that in most cases, ill-health could be attributed to poverty.

He said that building capacity in STI would help improve the health of citizens.

The Supervisor at Centre of Excellence in STI disclosed that over the past century, science and technology provided the basis for the largest ever aggregate improvements in human health.

Akinbo said advances in scientific knowledge and its application, helped to slow the trend of high fertility and high mortality.

He said that this would also lead to increasing better health for many people all over the world.

The supervisor said that nonetheless, vector and water borne diseases, aids inadequate pre-natal and maternal and child created tremendous burden in developing countries.

He said disease like smallpox and others like childbirth and routine infectious diseases had declined sharply.

Akinbo said that indoor air pollution, dysentery, water-borne disease such as cholera and vector-borne disease like malaria, dengue and AIDS account for millions of deaths annually.

He said these diseases were hitting hardest the countries that are least prepared and could not afford to deal with them.

“Some of these issues can be addressed using current knowledge, like dysentery while others require scientific breakthroughs in science and technology,“ he said.

In the area of agriculture, the expert said advances in STI had facilitated higher yields, greater efficiency and nutritional content in the world food supply.

He said genome editing; an emerging technology being initiated by the AU, was a typical example of an innovative technology that could be applied in agriculture for improved crop yield.

“Food production, however, must double in the coming decades to meet rising demand and meet the challenges entailed in inter alia improving resistance to drought, pests, salinity and temperature extremes.’’

Akinbo said the challenges associated with raising the nutritional content and reducing post-harvest loss, all in an environmentally and socially sustainable manner.

He said that at the same time, the regulatory challenges of assuring safety in food production and consumption would increase exponentially.

“Although, the necessary technology for increasing the agricultural output is available in many developing countries including Nigeria but certain requisites must be met’’, he said.

He said these include the will to advance economically, opportunity and organisation to use the technology, elimination of political, social and economic disasters to development.

Akinbo said it also involved the ability to first incorporate the technology into overall development and then to continue using it.

He said in the domain of food security, advances in science and technology provided the foundation for green revolution.

“Improved knowledge of plant biology and breeding techniques led to better seeds and cultivation practices that drastically increase yields,“ he said.(NAN)

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