Covid-19: NCDC advocates syndemic research framework for holistic studies

By Sunday Adama & Favour Egwu

Sequel to the deleterious effects of coronavirus on lives and livelihoods globally, the director, Prevention, Programme and Knowledge Management (PPKM), Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Associate Prof. Chinwe Lucia Ochu, has said a global syndemic research framework is needed for holistic studies on the pandemic.

Ochu gave this recommendation while delivering a lecture at a seminar, organised by the Centre of Excellence in Migration and Global Studies (CEMGS), National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), held on a webinar platform.

Speaking on the topic: “The Syndemicity of Covid-19: Implications for Global Studies on the Pandemic,” Ochu, who is the National Coordinator, Nigeria Covid-19 research consortium, said “Covid-19 is more than a pandemic; it is a syndemic.”

While citing Merrill Singer, a medical anthropologist and Professor in Anthropology and in Community Medicine at the University of Connecticut Health Centre, Storrs United States, Ochu said a syndemic is “a set of closely intertwined and mutual enhancing health problems that significantly affect the overall health status of a population within the context of a perpetuating configuration of noxious social conditions.”

Explaining further, she said syndemics "usually involves complex interactions between communicable, non-communicable disease (also include trauma, maternal and perinatal disorders etc.) and ecological factors- environmental, socio-economic and political factors.”

According to her, “There are three core things that must be in existence for you to consider a particular situation as syndemic, which are: biological interaction of that disease with another disease, there are also socio-psychological interactions and macro-social factors."

While speaking on syndemic implications for global studies on the pandemic, the director said "solitary studies of Covid-19 will undermine the syndemic nature of the disease and prolong the deleterious social effects even after the pandemic," adding "that the syndemic impacts of Covid-19 could pose a greater public health burden than the pandemic itself.

"An integrated multi-disciplinary research approach provides a better understanding of the Covid-19 syndemic and generate holistic data that will be more relevant to policymakers in all sectors, as well as health practitioners," she said.

The associate professor then recommended that global research policies should be underpinned by the understanding of Covid-19 as a syndemic, not just a pandemic, adding that there should be inclusion of end-users and target population perspectives in the development and implementation of research agenda on COVID-19.

Earlier in her opening remark, the host of the seminar, who is also an Associate Fellow/Production Editor, CEMGS International Journal and a Lecturer, English Department, National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), Dr. Felicia Oamen, thanked the presenter and the participants for their participation in the seminar.

The seminar, Oamen said, is being organised weekly in keeping with the mandates of CEMGS where issues bordering on migration both internal and external are being discussed.

There were questions and answers session anchored by the director, CEMGS, Prof. Hakeem Ibikunle Tijani, while Prof. Oparaduru John Onyemauche of CEMGS said the vote of thanks.