No disease is purely a biological issue without potent psychosocial dimensions. As a matter of fact one of the challenges of contemporary medical practice is the capacity to engage the psychosocial forces outside of the clinical domain.
The patient is not just a clinical item but a psychosocial being. COVID-19 infection as a pandemic has brought to light varied psychosocial challenges to mankind apart from the care of the illness itself. This is about the first time the whole world is simultaneously locked down irrespective of the enormous psychological and socio-economic consequences that may arise.
With the rising rate of new cases and unrelenting mortality figures, countries all over the world have had to lockdown their territories thereby bringing to a halt crucial socio-cultural and socioeconomic activities.
Nigeria as one of the most important destinations and transit spots in Africa has not been left out of the globalising impact of COVID-19 infection in the context of its spread and consequences. This has overhauled and fundamentally challenged our world, our economy, our social life, our religion, our culture, our education, our politics and governance, our family life, our relationships and our existence.
The psychosocial dimensions of COVID-19 infections are as global as they are local. These issues must be pragmatically interrogated in such a way that their consequences on the quality of our lives are mitigated. We had explained the mental health consequences of the infection on the individual lives including those who test positive and have to endure being taken away from family and friends; the risk of stigmatisation threatening marital life and subsequent social engagement. The inherent fear of such individuals losing their lives and the psychological impact of actual loss on the family members and associates. The frontline medical workers who on the line of duty get infected and burn out in the care of the patients. For a novel disease that is just evolving with varied clinical pictures frustrating the best effort of medical practitioners and top-rate health system with a dramatic mode of transmission prescribes that the psychosocial dimensions must be interrogated.
The medical model is grossly inadequate to give us a clear understanding of this disease and its impact on our lives, hence the need to employ the bio-psychosocial model canvassed by Eliot Engel that views illness not only as a biological event but with associated psychological and social factors including the socioeconomic situations, culture, technology, religion and politics.
This pandemic has shown that Nigeria lacks effective social data to effectively plan for the populace, to trace contacts and deliver social welfare intervention. Our hospitals are poorly equipped for critical care and it is a shame that we are losing the opportunity of this pandemic to develop medical infrastructure. The isolation centres have done well especially with the appreciable recovery rate that nature bequeathed to us but I imagine if we have numerous cases that require critical care what the projection of our mortality could have been.
The prescription of various forms of lockdown as the strategy is laudable but without adequate cushioning of its socioeconomic implications for the vulnerable.
There is an appreciable percentage of the populace who live from hand to mouth and are equally affected by this lockdown without succour.
The attendant brutalisation of those who could not comply and of course preventable deaths that have been recorded not primarily due to COVID-19 but due to other socioeconomic dynamics call for concern. There is emerging stigmatisation of respiratory symptomatology that does not allow a good number of non-COVID-19 respiratory diseases to have been attended effectively by medical practitioners.
In the few months to come and as we have more cases of Covid-19 even when they are non-fatal, we may record more deaths not primarily due to the viral infection but due to the fear and anxiety associated with it.
Most people will recede to their sociocultural paradigms to define the cause and management of this illness. Many unscientific remedies will emerge that may cause more injury than the virus.
Non-governmental institutions, religious groups and social clubs need to give correct information about proven precautions of its spread and intervention.
Our health care providers need to get fully protected as we care for other medical problems that need urgent attention, get more people tested while we pray and wait for further successful medical intervention of this disease. Our health care policy experts need to contextually prescribe measures that are not only clinical but socioculturally sensitive.