Friday, November 18, 2011

Good News Friday!

Today I’d like to welcome Alexander Ndubuisi Otakpor to the Imagine! community.

Alex has begun an internship under the supervision of Dr. Jeff Kupfer and other Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) team members of Imagine!’s Behavioral Health Services (IBHS) department. Alex is a Nigerian citizen and permanent resident of the United States of America. He is a Child Psychiatrist holding a tenure appointment with the University of Benin School of Medicine, located in Benin City, Nigeria.

The internship program began on October 10 and is scheduled to last six months. This supervised training will qualify Alex to take the BCBA examination, as he has completed the prescribed course work with the Florida Institute of Technology.

The motivation behind Alex’s efforts to become BCBA Certified is quite inspiring.

According to the World Bank, the population of Nigeria is 158 million, and yet, there are only around twenty trained Child Psychiatrists in the entire nation. And the lack of Child Psychiatrists is only one of many challenges facing individuals needing behavioral and psychiatric services in the country.

What sort of challenges? It is hard to decide where to start. For example, total expenditure on healthcare in Nigeria was an estimated 2.6% of GDP in 2008. At around $28 per person, spending on healthcare in Nigeria was lower than in most other Sub-Saharan countries. In fact, the UN Human Development Report of 2009 ranked Nigeria 189th out of 194 countries in relation to public expenditure on health as a share of total government expenditure.

In the face of this limited expenditure on healthcare, Nigeria faces extreme healthcare challenges. Of the 7.6 million children under the age of five who died in 2010, 11% percent of them were from Nigeria.  Because most of the major killers of children under age five (including pneumonia, diarrheal diseases, preterm birth complications, under-nutrition, and malaria) are “curative” diseases, the majority of the already paltry health care spending in Nigeria goes to address those conditions.

Even with better funding, Alex notes that among many Nigerian families, there is a certain stigma attached to having a developmental disability or mental health issue (in fact, the two separate health related issues are often seen as the same thing), making them reluctant to seek out treatment.

As a result of all of these challenges, the very few facilities in Nigeria designed to serve individuals with developmental disabilities or mental heath needs provide only the barest of services, mostly meeting basic needs such as food and shelter.

The list of challenges mentioned above would seem to be overwhelming. But Alex doesn’t see it that way. He’s determined to improve the lives of his fellow Nigerian citizens who have developmental disabilities or mental heath needs.

After he receives his BCBA Certification, Alex is planning to go back to Nigeria to demonstrate the effectiveness of Applied Behavioral Analysis treatment methods and to train others how to use those methods, to better prepare his country to meet the needs of this woefully underserved population.

Alex’s commitment to his fellow countrymen and women serves as a model to all of us in the field of serving those with developmental disabilities. We all face challenges in the day-to-day administration of our duties, but we should always remember that those challenges don’t need to prevent us from meeting our greater goal of providing opportunities for those we serve.

Thank you, Alex, for all you do, and I hope we can help you in meeting your goal as much as you have already helped us in clarifying why we at Imagine! do the work we do.

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