Most people approach poverty eradication through resource distribution or access to education. However, C, a student at Lagos State University and a 2019 Millennium Fellow, has taken a different approach. He started the Gifted Hands Initiative with the goal of bringing health insurance to all Nigerians irrespective of financial and social class in order to lift them out of poverty.
Although the Nigerian government launched NHIS (National Health Insurance System) in 2015 this plan covers less than 10% of the population. According to David, the people who use this plan are disproportionately wealthy. This means that the most vulnerable populations in Nigeria do not have social or financial health protection. Around 70% of the Nigerian population lack access to basic health services due to outrageous health service prices. David is a part of this 70% block of Nigerians. Thus came the idea for his project.
“The idea of this project is to raise the standard of living for people in poverty by subsidising health care fees and changing health insurance in Nigeria. I recognized a need an am prepared to work for it. I want to eradicate poverty but from the health side. I focus on eradicating poverty with health as my number one priority.”
He is currently challenging the insurance system in his country by starting grassroots campaigns and reaching out to local communities. He is educating people on how health and socioeconomics are closely related and how better health can allow people to lift themselves out of poverty. He believes that once health insurance is a national debate topic, people will rise up to demand better access to healthcare. He believes that the primary method for this revolution will be through social media coverage, particularly from his own generation.
His second objective is to change the way that patients are attended to in the health care system. According to David, in many Nigerian hospitals, doctors and nurses do not properly attend to patients. Before you can get any treatment you first need to show money and documentation. Then come all the followup costs from the actual treatment and drugs which very few people can actually afford. David has had several personal experiences with the concept of payment before treatment. He has lost both his mother and father to inadequate healthcare and high costs. Before his father passed away he was rejected from three hospitals in Nigeria due to the hospitals demanding payment before treatment.
“The first objective should be to save the life first and ask questions later. But in my country, it is the opposite. If you don’t make a deposit no one will treat you. That is our policy and that is what I am out to change.”
In order to boost his project and establish connections, David decided to join the Millennium Fellowship. The lessons that he has learned through the Fellowship have allowed him to gain credibility and understand the importance of building a sustainable health insurance system that can protect his people for generations. He also closely identifies with the values of empathy that the Fellowship continuously promotes. David feels that the value of empathy needs to be further ingrained into the Nigerian health system because it will promote treating everyone regardless of how much money they earn.
“Most people that were part of this Fellowship were young people like me. Thanks to the Fellowship, I now have a platform I can stand on to reach out to my dreams and improve my country.”