“People do learn how to watch their diets.” — YALI Network member Ebelenna Anekwe
YALI Network member Ebelenna Anekwe is a volunteer peer educator who inspires neighbors in his Nigerian community to think more about how they can improve their health.
He does that by teaching them about nutrition levels in the food they eat. He encourages them to get regular medical check-ups — including blood pressure and diabetes screenings — and to take their medicines and other treatments as prescribed. Since 2013, he has reached 100 people ranging from youth to the elderly.
Anekwe, 25, is a physical therapy student at the University of Maiduguri. Since 2009 he has volunteered with the nonprofit International Center for Advocacy on Right to Health, also known as Alliance Rights Nigeria. He began his work there by taking patients’ vital signs, which indicate general physical health, give clues to possible diseases, and show progress toward recovery. “My family works with me to make great change in our community,” he says.
“I believe peoples’ attitudes have changed” about maintaining their health, he said. “People do learn how to watch their diets.”
Anekwe is helping to spread a message about cardiovascular disease that is sometimes overlooked in Africa, where infectious disease is frequently portrayed as the most immediate health threat. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more people in the world die of heart disease and stroke than from any other cause. Heart disease and stroke risk factors include unhealthy diet and physical inactivity. Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body cannot use the insulin it produces. Diabetes increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.
The views and opinions expressed here belong to the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of the YALI Network or the U.S. government.