The incubator for success: how mentorship and career development can boost Nigeria’s public health sector

 

In March 2023, the World Health Organization (WHO) released an  alarming report that highlights the pressing health workforce challenges faced by several countries worldwide, with Nigeria being one of the most affected. The report sheds light on the country’s declining number of health workers despite its poor health indices, high burden of infectious diseases, rapidly growing population rate, and limited funding for healthcare. Given the severity of the situation, it is imperative to prioritize efforts towards tackling Nigeria’s public health challenges. Developing the capacity of young public health professionals is one impactful way to achieve this, as they can contribute significantly to the country’s public health workforce and ultimately improve the health outcomes for Nigerians.

While the field has seen a surge of interest in recent years, many young public health professionals like us, continue to encounter numerous obstacles, including limited access to mentorship and career development opportunities. With the significant public health challenges that Nigeria faces, we need a network that supports the mentorship and career development of young public health professionals to ensure a healthier future for our communities.

Access to mentorship opportunities is essential for young public health professionals in Nigeria to take up roles in the public health workforce as programme managers, health promoters, community engagement officers, social and behavioral change experts, health policy analysts, and more. As we have learned from our experience and various interactions with young public health professionals, it can be challenging to gain valuable knowledge and experience without guidance and support from experienced mentors. This lack of mentorship can lead to limited career growth, as young professionals may struggle to navigate the complex public health sector. A dedicated public health network that offers mentorship opportunities can connect young public health professionals with experienced mentors who can provide guidance and support in their career development. Mentors can provide valuable insights into the industry, offer guidance on career development, and provide support to help young professionals overcome the challenges they may face.

Access to career development opportunities are also critical for young public health professionals in Nigeria.  Amidst the competing priorities for public health interventions and limited resources available, it is often difficult to fund specific job openings and in-service training programs. This can result in limited career growth opportunities for young public health professionals, making it challenging to gain valuable experience and advance in their careers. In some cases, these professionals may become discouraged and leave the field altogether, resulting in a shortage of qualified professionals in the sector. By providing career development opportunities, a dedicated public health network can help young public health professionals develop the skills and knowledge necessary to become competent and successful professionals in the field.

A network for young public health professionals can also provide a platform for collaboration and networking. The world is an increasingly growing global village and Nigeria is a large, complex country that increasingly needs more experienced professionals to contribute to its public health workforce. By creating a network of young public health professionals, individuals from different areas of the field can come together to share their knowledge and expertise, collaborate on projects, and learn from one another. This collaboration can help to create a more connected and informed public health community, contributing to an even stronger health system.

Moreover, a network for young public health professionals can help to address the issue of brain drain – a rapidly increasing challenge for Nigerians. By providing mentorship and career development opportunities, a network can help young professionals develop their skills and knowledge, making it more likely that they will remain in the public health sector in their home countries.

In conclusion, Nigeria needs a network that supports the mentorship and career development of young public health professionals. This network can provide mentorship and career development opportunities, create a platform for collaboration and networking, and help to address the issue of brain drain. By investing in young public health professionals, we can develop a competent and skilled workforce that is dedicated to improving the health of Nigeria’s population. This is what we are building at Public Health Incubation Hub Nigeria (PHIHN).

PHIHN is a young network that aims to empower and support young public health professionals in Nigeria. With a following of over 3,000 on social media, we are dedicated to providing job and career development opportunities, organising skill-building and learning sessions, creating networking and mentorship opportunities, and contributing to the growth and development of Nigeria’s public health workforce. As founding members of this network and Nigerian public health professionals, we draw on our own experiences and the knowledge of established professionals in the sector to address the challenges faced by young public health professionals in Nigeria. Our goal is to make a positive impact in Nigeria’s public health sector and contribute to strengthening the public health workforce.

 

About the authors:

Oyeronke Oyebanji is a Nigerian public health professional, currently working as Chief of Staff at a global health organisation. She is a doctoral candidate at LSHTM.

Lawrence N. Anyanwu is a veterinary doctor, who is interested in public health intelligence – the use of data to inform better decisions. He holds an MSc in Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases & AMR from the University of Glasgow.

Chioma Ekene-Ugwu is a public health professional developing communication and advocacy content on nutrition, health, WASH, food security & livelihood for development and humanitarian assistance programs in Nigeria. She is interested in integrating behavioural science to solve public health problems.

Zikar Elendu is a Nigerian public health professional, currently studying for an MSc in Public Health as a Sustainability Leadership Scholar at the University of Limerick Ireland.

Emmanuel Benyeogor is a Nigerian epidemiologist with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control. He is a FlemingFund AMR fellow and Planetary Health doctoral candidate at Nagasaki University.

Munachimso Dim is a Nigerian public health professional, currently working with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control. Her work is focused on strengthening the surveillance system at the National and subnational level through workforce development.

Celestina Obiekea is a Nigerian public health professional specializing in strengthening Laboratory systems for efficient public health response activities. She currently works as the Technical Advisor, Laboratory Systems for Resolve To Save Lives (RTSL) in Nigeria.

Competing interests: The authors are founding members of Public Health Incubation Hub Nigeria, a network registered as a Nigerian non-profit to provide career development, mentorship and networking opportunities for young Nigerian public health professionals.

Handling Editor: Neha Faruqui

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