Author Archives: Regional Media and Publications Officer

Transformation of health delivery systems in Africa with the integration of orthodox and complementary medicine

By Ekpoh Mfonobong
PANS, Nigeria

Africa has about 54 countries divided into regions: North Africa, Sahel, West Africa, Central Africa, East Africa and Southern Africa. The continent’s continuing struggle with communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis (TB), parasitic diseases and poor primary and obstetric care has been a major factor in stalling the development and extension of healthcare services in African countries at even the most basic level (Janssen 2011). The healthcare delivery system has a role to play in Africa’s experience of disproportionate burden of poverty, disease, and death with appalling disparities within and between countries (Kaseje 2006).

Health is an integral part of life and its expedient that Africa’s healthcare system is re-assessed for viability. Orthodox medicine in its own sense, trains general medical practitioners to comprehensively treat the whole patient and to refer to specialists only when patients present ailments exceeding the knowledge and skills of the practitioner. Moreover, consumer-led demands for alternative therapies allow many people to seek care from a wide variety of traditions, each of which has its own anecdotal claims of success (Touyz 2012). Hence, integration of orthodox medicine with complementary medicine would be valuable.

Africa is a continent blessed with vast herbs whose medicinal value knowledge is handed down through generations, alongside the benefits of alternative medicine practices such as acupuncture, biofeedback etc. Previously, traditional medicine was presumed to be dangerous and produce side effects, which would be treated by orthodox medicine or lead to deterioration of the patient’s health. However, only decoctions, herbal products sourced from inappropriate centers, or products used in unidentified disease conditions and with insufficient advice on therapy regimen result in such scenarios (Asare 2016). Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API) and different excipients are obtained from nature. Correcting the wrong notions of complementary medicine, and accepting it the way orthodox medicine has ‘won the heart’ of most practitioners, would make appropriate integration less challenging.

More products from nature are being produced and marketed, with claims to be effective in treatment of various diseases, eg Gingko biloba proven to benefit brain function; moringa seeds, leaves and extracts proven to contain phytochemicals beneficial to health. Also, acupuncture has been effective in stress management. For better healthcare systems, the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) of orthodox medicine by various pharmaceutical companies are monitored timely. Similarly, for improved desired outcomes on patients’ quality of life, SOPs of herbal medicines should be regulated too, to prevent interference with the pharmacology of orthodox medicine. To spike interest in future healthcare professionals, alternative medicine should be taken more seriously in our institutions, with well-balanced tutoring on its basics and the benefits of its integration. Also, herbalists and other professionals of complementary medicine should become members of the healthcare team. Moreover, a balance in the basic knowledge of both medicines is necessary for these professionals.

These natural products and techniques in combination with orthodox medicine would speed up recovery, boost health and general immunity, increase appreciation of the blessings of nature and help reassess the cost of wellbeing in order to accommodate all strata of the economy. Also, standardized complementary healthcare would provide affordable healthcare for vulnerable groups as most times patients purchase medicines at high cost compared to their standard of living.

Health must be viewed as a central element of productivity rather than as an unproductive consumer of public budgets (Kaseje 2006). The ‘tides’ in healthcare demands of Africans are changing, our system is at a turning point, thus, all hands must be on deck as this course is an all-encompassing one.


  1. A Presentation on ‘Healthcare in Africa: Challenges, Opportunities and an Emerging Model for Improvement’ by Dan Kaseje, Great Lakes University of Kisumu, November 2006.
  2. An Article on ‘Herbal Medicine vs Orthodox Medicine, The Wrong Attitude’ by Bentil Asare, 2016.
  3. Louis ZG Touyz (2012). Alternative and Orthodox Medicine and the “ODD” Principle. Curr Oncol.; 19(02); 64-65
  4. The Future of Healthcare in Africa. A Report from the Economic Intelligence Unit sponsored by Janssen, 2011.


Integration of orthodox and complementary medicine: China has done it, Africa can do it too!

By Peris Thuo
KEPhSA, Kenya

Africa, My Motherland! She has evolved over the years from the exclusive use of traditional to embracing modern medicine. The world is watching as our continent strives to live up to its full potential in areas such as healthcare, education and infrastructure.

Health care delivery systems involve structured organizations of people, institutions and resources to ensure that the health needs of a target population are met. This remains to be an enormous challenge in Africa in areas such as leadership, governance, financing and accountability. The international finance corporation estimates that 25 to 30 billion US dollars are needed over the next decade to meet healthcare demand in Africa.

Complementary medicine refers to the health practice that approaches knowledge and beliefs incorporating plant, animal, mineral-based and spiritual therapy. These are either applied alone or in combination in diagnosis, disease prevention and maintenance of well being. We are now at a time where history is repeating itself and many patients are opting for complementary medicine. This is due to frustration for lack of cures for chronic diseases, affordability and accessibility. In addition, patients feel that they have more control over management of their treatment when using alternative treatment options and alternative medicine is viewed as safer than conventional medicine.

Effective incorporation of complementary medicine to health care systems would require proper policy and regulation. This is a big challenge in my country Kenya as it is estimated that nine in ten herbalists are fake. Most of these fake herbalists are based in our capital, Nairobi. They exploit vulnerable and gullible patients, mainly those suffering from chronic illness for commercial gain. This has contributed to the lack of faith in complementary medicine by the general public.

There is need for establishment of trust between health researchers and the genuine herbalists in order to successfully achieve this. Genuine herbalists are mainly based in the village. They are very skeptical about sharing their formulas with researchers for fear of exploitation. An ancestral aspect is also involved as most of these formulas have been passed from generation to generation. They fear that commercialization would not appease the ancestors. Trust has to be established between the two parties through establishment of proper policies to ensure that the genuine herbalist is protected.

Kenyatta National Teaching and Referral Hospital, Nairobi is the biggest of its kind in East and Central Africa. Research was conducted in the hospital to analyze the number of patients who use complementary medicine in addition to modern medicine. It was found that a number of inpatients would take their complementary medicine at night after the nurses had administered prescribed drugs and left the wards. Majority had not informed the physician that they were on these drugs. Reasons cited were: the physicians never asked, they would not understand, they would disapprove and the overall relationship between the physician and the patient would be affected.

Complementary medicine cannot be successfully incorporated if the physicians themselves have no faith in it. There is need for continuous medical education about the benefits of complementary medicine. Regulation of these medicines is crucial in ensuring that physicians can readily prescribe them to patients without hesitation.

Funding of complementary medicine research is mandatory. It is not possible to incorporate it to healthcare delivery systems unless all the necessary research and trials have been carried out. New delivery systems ought to be developed. A change in mindset is needed.

China has done it, Africa can do it too!




Wanderlust: Here are the health benefits of travelling

By Bakani M. Ncube

Wanderlust is one of my favourite words; a noun with German origins meaning ‘a strong, innate desire to travel about and to rove’. In this article, we will consider the health benefits of travel.

Nowadays, most people are forfeiting their vacation despite stress, anxiety and other negative effects of not taking time off at work. Experts state that “apart from depriving yourself the chance to enhance your productivity & work performance, avoiding taking a break can lead to stress overload and other potentially damaging effects on your health.” A vacation will offer you the chance to relax and results in the restoration of your overall wellbeing. Travelling to foreign lands will allow you to immerse yourself in new surroundings, boosting your brainpower and fully recharge. These are both smart moves for mind, body & soul.

Travelling will recharge you emotionally and increase your empathy especially when your vacation is near a water body. According to Wallace J. Nichols, “often associated with feelings of awe and wander, water can boost our empathy and compassion, our connection to ourselves and those who we are with, and for many – from musicians like Pharrell to neurologists like Oliver Sacks – it’s a steady source of creativity and insight.”

When you are on vacation, you are often more active compared to when you are in your usual routine. As we are more inclined to try new activities and some cities are so picturesque you tend to wander down the cobbled streets through narrow alleys for hours on end. The emergence of fitness-centric resorts that encourage guests to get fit and try new workouts to boost physical and mental health away from home are another way that travel will result in you getting in shape.

Dr Margaret J. King says that “there are a lot of psychological benefits from a change of venue from home and work to ‘third places’ devoted to just experiencing the environment. With a short list of activities each day, freed from the complexity of ongoing projects & relationships, the mind can reset, as does the body, with stress relief being the main outcome. Humans thrive on novelty and travel offers the complete package with new faces, sounds and sights.” Vacations give us that time for much needed sleep, they are an opportunity to wind down and rest up. As a pharmacy student, most nights are spent up till late resulting in little sleep and high stress, both contributing to irritability and negative repercussions on cognitive performance and efficiency. Max Hirshkowitz, the chairman of the board of the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) reiterates the importance of vacations as he highlights that a “vacation is a great opportunity to catch up on sleep” and to feel more energized.

Diamond Resorts International (2014) found over three quarters of respondents reporting feeling happier when they planned a trip at least once a year. When on vacation, there is a reduction in the release of stress hormones which degrade our mental, physical health and the nostalgia long after the trip will trigger happiness. Overall, there is a boost in mood from the trip.

We seldom consider that there are scientifically proven health benefits to travel. A partnership between Global Commission on Aging & Transamerica centre for retirement studies with the US Travel Association found that travel leads to a healthier life. Their study found that women who vacation at least twice a year show a significantly lower risk of suffering a heart attack than those who only travel once every six years or so. Men who do not take an annual vacation show a 20% higher risk of death and a 30% greater risk of heart disease.

Lastly, having gypsy blood will lover depression – healthier alternatives are available for escaping the hopelessness of a depressed state and travel is one such healthier alternative. With this arsenal of knowledge on your side, the question on my mind becomes “Where will you go?” Do yourself a favour. Before it’s too late, without thinking too much about it first, pack a pillow and a blanket and see as much of the world as you can. You will not regret it. One day it will be too late.

Bakani M. Ncube is the outgoing SEO of the Zimbabwe Pharmaceutical Students Association (ZPSA), the current CP of ZPSA and an International Campus Ambassador for the WHSS 2017.  

Nigerian IPSF CP hosts first Pharmacy Profession Awareness Campaign

By Isah Dahiru

Theme: Pharmacy; My Career of Choice

The choice of a career is one of life’s biggest decisions, as we live in exciting times where there is the quintessential adjustments and flexibility to career requirements. The career of an aspiring college applicant is a substantial index of envisaged success, measured in monetary value.

Career pathways in Nigeria has been precursored by acquiring a related university degree or picking skills and internship opportunities that can offer valuable and lasting experiences. The likelihood of enjoying a successful career begins by planning a degree that is in line with your career choice.

The orientation program is aimed to enlighten secondary school pupils and to educate them about the uniqueness, beauty and opportunity in the profession. Indirectly the community’s concept of pharmacy as a profession can be properly defined. This project is designed to cover 21 schools over a period of ten (10) months in each state with a School of Pharmacy.

We started this program with Ahmadu Bello University, School of Basic and Remedial Studies, SBRS-ABU Funtua in Katsina State of Nigeria. The guest speaker was Pharm. Ahmed Mohammed Gana, who delivered the speech to over 700 students in attendance.

The career talks focuses on:

Harnessing of skills and interest.

As skills are the perceptible abilities we possess as humans, and interests are the direction we lead our abilities to. You may have a skill or interest in science related career but the tragedy of the Nigerian state not viably commercialising end products of science is a huge setback. You might decide to settle for a degree in Arts, Social and Management Sciences because having such a degree is enterprising. Doing this might harm your career path as even when you acquire the degree, the career becomes unfulfilling irrespective of accolades and wealth amassed. You must have found it difficult making adjustments in areas where you don’t have natural abilities and interests.

The students were asked to define their career goal.

Average university degree seeker is between the ages 15-18 years in Nigeria. It might appear rather vague to expect life or career goals from such young persons. Success in today’s contemporary generation is not restricted to age. We have teenagers who have made revolutionary impact not by chance or parental leverage, but because they set career goals early in life. You need clarity and purpose on what you want to achieve with your interest and career to enable you choose a degree that promotes your goals.

Finally, in a competitive Nigerian market a related university degree is a requirement in most career fields. Employers rarely get attracted to talents alone, the degree is a proof that you understand the tenets and ethics. As much as interest and experience is required, putting your university degree on the same graphical axis with your career goal makes the future promising, and pharmacy is one of the profession like no other in this planet earth, as it provides ethics and job opportunities by growing the economy.

Mr. Isah is from Auyo Local Government of Jigawa State Nigeria. He’s currently studying pharmacy (400l) in Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, and the IPSF Contact Person for PANS, Nigeria


This is what I’d like to tell you about me joining IPSF: It’s been AWESOME!

By Temitope Ben-Ajepe

.and I’m not saying that just because I can. Writing this has done a great job of evoking deep rooted nostalgia and I’m happy to say that I really don’t mind.

The mere act of talking (or more aptly put, writing in this case) about my IPSF experience fills me up with the fondest memories that I’ll forever cherish in my pharmaceutical career and ignites hope of an even better and more rewarding experience in the course of what’s left in my sojourn as a student pharmacist through the genius that is the International Pharmaceutical Students’ Federation (IPSF).

For one thing, I discovered IPSF at an all time low and while it would be insincere to say it changed my life (or at least, not yet), it gave me a fresh perspective on a lot of pharmaceutical things. At that point, reading about pharmacy was drab and unexciting and I believed my life held more promise elsewhere and I couldn’t wait to leave school immediately after my finals. Everything about pharmacy deeply infuriated me and I wanted nothing more than to be done with it in the long haul and for the short run and to greatly reduce all unnecessary exposure to it.

I more or less stumbled on IPSF through a dear friend,who’s now a pharmacist and ex-student of our great Igbinedion University, who sent me a soft copy of the flyer for a Leaders-In-Training event planned to be held here at school during the summer of 2016 and while the techie in me was already gearing up to fly to Abuja for the coolest internship I had snagged at the Office for ICT Innovation and Entrepreneurship, it was the name Seun Omobo that did it for me. I knew who she was and the great work she had done at WHO and was what you’d call a fan. I am fascinated by the woman as I think she’s phenomenal and with a little tweaking to my already set plans, I found myself on a bus to Okada to finally meet her before proceeding to Abuja from Benin.

By the time I got to Okada, Seun had already made her address. And left. And I was, for lack of a better term, devastated. My whole detour had been a waste of time, money and effort. Or so I thought.

I ended up staying and thoroughly enjoying myself even though I was forced to hole up at the dingy “Princess” motel. It was at that event I came to realize just how multidisciplinary pharmacy practice truly was and how I could align my skills and interests with my pharmacy background to work in so many new, exciting fields. Pharmacy didn’t have to be restricted to community or hospital and that was all I needed to know to get me pumped for it.

The people I met in the facilitators nailed an already closed coffin in case I changed my mind. They were smart, precise and had good heads on their shoulders. We conversed and I knew that this was something I wanted to be a part of; exciting, fresh and making a lot of sense.

It’s been only under a year and I’ve made really amazing friends within and outside the country who are as ambitious as myself and with whom I could always consult for their input on specific matters. I am continuously amazed how so many amazing and super smart people (read: pharmacists and student pharmacists) can aggregate all in one place. And it’s not all just about the book smarts, they’re street savvy and widely traveled and really, really cool. I am forever grateful for the friends from whose wealth of experience I can drink from and see the world through their eyes. The deeply cerebral talks and light-hearted, witty banter, I take none of it for granted. At all.

I’ve had the opportunity of engaging in events, from organizing medical outreaches in collaboration with The United States State Department to the  Professional Development approved ones for Patient Counseling and Clinical Skills; being actively involved in the groundwork and writing reports and making commendations. I’ve also coordinated an aggressive, Nationwide online Campaign on Antimicrobial Resistance that was duly recognized by the Federation.

For one who loves the road, I’ve been opportune to travel to other faculties of pharmacy for knowledge sharing programs and it’s been nothing short of exhilarating. There’s an inside joke about how IPSF is a sort of travel agency but and slowly but surely, it’s beginning to make sense. Never mind that it’s at your own expense. But the experiences are worth it all.

And I’m just getting started.

The writer is an aspiring pharmacist and wordsmith. Interested in mobile health, big data and tweets from @temi_benjamin.    


Redefining the roles of pharmacists

By Fabrice Humura

Pharmacists practice in nearly all areas and specialties in healthcare, sometimes behind the scenes and obviously not to the public eye arena, as the medication medicines experts on the healthcare team. They are necessary in all facets of healthcare.  

A Pharmacist as defined by World Health Organization, is a health care professional licensed to prepare, compound, and dispense drugs upon written order known as a prescription. A pharmacist cooperates, consults with, and advises the licensed practitioner concerning drugs.

From this sole definition, a number of popular misconceptions about pharmacy as a profession could be disapproved. The main concern that a pharmacist’ s role is limited to typically picking the tablets off the shelf, counting them out and handing them over does not match with the aforementioned roles streamlined in the definition of WHO.

The role of a pharmacist starts right from the manufacturing of medications; a lot about this is mostly experienced in developed countries which have drug industry. The knowledge of a pharmacist is reliable in preparation of medication to ensure the right ingredients are used in compounding of medicines availed in all forms ranging from solids to liquids to gaseous.  

As medication specialist, pharmacists crucial responsibility is displayed in the healthcare team through the medicines preparations, manufacturing and information they make available.  Pharmacists educate and advise the physicians and other health professionals on medication therapy. They ensure no interaction amid prescribed drugs which could be detrimental to patients.  

A long hectic day full of anticipated and many unanticipated scenarios can pose a physician or any other healthcare professional to prescribe a wrong dose or incorrect medication relatively to a diagnosed infection.  In such cases, the ultimate role of pharmacist becomes evidently recognized as the prescriptions get scrutinized and the pharmacist intervene in advising the healthcare team on the right treatment in conjunction to avoiding the medication errors as well as irrational medicine usage. All these are done out of patient watch and they could not realize the important role of the pharmacist in their recovery. With this concerns therefore, the healthcare team, which inevitably uses medications, must admit the importance of a pharmacist.

As the world is at its highest pace in development, enormous diseases result from this progress due to industrialization, people’s life style to name just a few. Among those diseases include non communicable diseases such as cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases notoriously known to be amongst deadly diseases.

Pharmacists don’t detach from providing information and advice on management of those non communicable diseases and assistance to patients living with them. Moreover, pharmacists are not impeded to screen for blood glucose level, blood pressure, body mass index, waist circumference and other health status values which can predetermine the early developmental stage of non communicable diseases.

Succinctly, a pharmacist by the perception of many is not solely the person who typically takes a request for medicines, evaluates the authenticity of the prescription and dispenses the medication as you pay, but a pharmacist is the first and foremost a patient centered healthcare professional ready to explain to people why they take their medications, what are they for, the names and strength of the medication and expected outcomes while taking medication.

Mr. Fabrice is a Pharmacy Student at University of Rwanda. College of Medicine and Health sciences. Twitter: @fhumura


At 22, Muoh Joanne, a pharmacy student in Ghana, has a novel in her name

Most pharmacy students in most parts of the world are known for just burying their heads 😅 in textbooks of pharmacology, pharmaceutics, medicinal chemistry, etc. without doing anything extracurricular. Muoh Joanne, 22, a pharmacy student in Ghana and the IPSF Contact Person has defied the odds. Last month, she released her first novel. Kennedy Odokonyero, our Regional Media and Publications Officer, interviewed her last week. Here’s the excerpt:

It has been a month or so since you released your first book “Through It All”. How has it been received by readers and book stores?                        

My main channel for sales are the online bookstores and so far things are looking up I guess. I have had people tell me how they are looking forward to a sequel which won’t be coming out though. But, so far it’s been positive.                        

Let us talk about the book itself. What’s the inspiration behind it? Or rather, what inspired you to write it?                        

Well … my mum and sister actually. We lost our grandma some years back (my mum’s mum) and I remember how my mum held up, how she was strong for the whole family, being the first born. It was difficult for her, I could see her pain but she wasn’t letting it out. How we would be talking about my grandma and her eyes would get all teary but she wouldn’t let a single tear drop. For my sister, she has always been patient with us, never complaining, never shouting and even when she does she would always apologize. So they were my motivation or inspiration.                       

Oh! It’s a real life story, right? I mean the story in the book.                        

No… it’s not a real life story. It’s fiction. But they were the main inspiration to write it. The book started on a tragic note, with the main character losing her dad…                        

Hahaha I see. How long did it take you to write the book? Writing, editing and eventually publishing?          

The writing took like a year and some months… you know with school and all. I wrote it basically during the holidays because I didn’t want to get sidetracked. However the few months before I published, I wrote in school usually in the middle of the night. As for the publishing and editing, that took about 4 months maximum.                        

You have never contributed any article to our blog or newsletters. I didn’t know you were a writer until you released the book. Maybe you are only a long-story kind of writer? 😊                        

Well… you could say that I am a long story kind of writer. But then I have tried my hand on an article, the tuberculosis   article. I believe the feedback from it, would tell me if I should venture into article writing. Apart from that… it also depends on the subject matter I guess.                        

Personally, I am a short (blog) kind of writer. I prefer the about 600 words kind of writing. Yes, I think you should venture into writing articles. Our blog and newsletters are open to give you the platform.                        

Sure, [I] would give it a try.                       

In my part of the world it’s unheard of pharmacy students who are novelists at the same time. What’s special about you? 😊                        

Wow… I can’t say actually. I guess it’s my God-given talent…so it’s only right that I use it to inspire people so that at the end of it all I can tell God that this is what I used the talent he gave me for. It’s all about the readers and the lives that the book would touch.                   

(Courtesy Photo)

Interesting! Is there a way home or your early school life influenced you into writing? I am curious to know if you were a literature student in secondary school.                        

Oh… not at all… I was never a literature student. I have always loved books, I started reading novels when I was in primary school or so (I started with Harry Potter, I had the whole collection then) and you know… making up stories and all. Back then in secondary school I could just stay and start telling my cousins stories from my head and they would always clamour for more. So after secondary school I wrote my first book which I actually plan on publishing later after I have dusted it.                        

A lot of young writers have this challenge of finding publishers willing to take up their work. How was the experience for you? Was it different?                        

I self-published actually. I did not want a situation where my work wouldn’t look like my work when it was published.                        

Haha did you self-finance the whole project too? 😃                        

Well… I had family support. Family is awesome.                        

Let me give a special shout out to your family. Mom, Dad, Siblings, Uncles, Aunties, etc. Thank you for supporting Joanne.                        

Yes ooo…                        

Hahaha you have just reminded me that you’re a Nigerian studying in Ghana. The “ooo” says it all.😃                        

Yes oo. [I] am Nigerian.                        

Is there a possibility that you could “abandon” our noble profession of pharmacy to become a full time novelist?                        

Haha. Never! I don’t think it can ever happen. Writing is something I love doing no doubt. It’s my hobby. So I guess it would be part time.                        

Thank God! 😀                        


Are there author(s) you look up to?                        

Yes actually. Ermm… Chimamanda Adichie, Myne Whitman (she inspired me to self-publish, she is also a self-published Nigerian author), Nora Roberts (I have always loved her writing style), Debbie Macomber and Danielle Steel. I love their writing style.                        

Great. Looking at the future of African literature, how do you think it will be?                       

I actually think African literature is evolving. We have great writers, even those that are upcoming. I mean it’s raw talent. Before you know what, we will be everywhere. I just think it’s a matter of time. It’s also up to us, we writers to step out of our comfort zones and you know spread our wings, let’s not be limited to just Africa.                        

Any fun facts about you that your readers (fans) should know?                        

Well, people won’t understand, but I love Korean series. 🙈🙊                        


What are your parting words?

I would like to say that for individuals who have it in them to write  I believe you can use any resource at your disposal. I for one I feel a lot more comfortable writing on my phone.

I just hope that my readers would be able to connect with my book, on a high level I guess. That’s the whole point, you write so that someone out there would relate with what you’ve written and in that way you know that you are actually touching lives.

Thanks Joanne for talking to us. Congratulations on your first book, a first to many more. I will buy my copy when I travel to Ghana in July for AfPS.                        

You are welcome. It was great talking with you.😊

Editor’s note: You can buy the book from Joanne’s website; You can also get the book from online bookstores such Amazaon, Barnes &Noble, Foyles and Indigo.                  


“The e-Cigarette Craze”

By Bakani M. Ncube

According to the American Food and Drug Administration, the FDA, e-cigarettes are battery-operated devices designed to look like and to be used in the same manner as conventional cigarettes. They are sold online and in many shopping malls. The devices generally contain cartridges filled with nicotine, flavour, and other chemicals and work by turning nicotine, which is highly addictive, and other chemicals into a vapour that is inhaled by the user. Unlike the conventional cigarette, electronic cigarettes don’t contain tobacco, so vaping (a term used to describe smoking/use of e-cigs) is not a form of tobacco use. The main component of e-cigarettes is the e-liquid contained in cartridges. The e-liquid is created by nicotine extraction from tobacco which is mixed with a base (usually propylene glycol), and may also include flavourings, colourings and other chemicals. There are nearly 500 different brands of e-cigarettes and around 7,700 flavours.

E-cigarettes can expose users to several potentially harmful chemicals, including nicotine, carbonyl compounds and volatile organic compounds. Nicotine is an addictive substance, and almost all e-cigarettes contain nicotine. Even some products that claim not to have any nicotine in them may still contain it. Initial FDA lab tests conducted in 2009 found that cartridges labelled as nicotine-free had traceable levels of nicotine. A 2014 study found little consistency in the amount of nicotine delivered by e-cigarettes of the same brand and strength. The newer e-cigarettes, especially “tank” styles, with higher voltage also deliver a greater concentration of nicotine and the more nicotine used, the greater the potential for addiction.

Nicotine has a negative impact on adolescent brain development. Human brain development continues far longer than was previously realized, and nicotine use during adolescence and young adulthood has been associated with lasting cognitive and behavioural impairments, including effects on working memory and attention. E-cigarettes also have detectable levels of toxic cancer-causing chemicals, including an ingredient used in antifreeze.The aerosol from e-cigarettes with a higher voltage level contains more formaldehyde, another carcinogen.

Diacetyl, a buttery flavoured chemical often added to food products such as popcorn, caramel, and dairy products, has also been found in some e-cigarettes with flavours and can cause a serious and irreversible lung disease commonly known as “popcorn lung.” There are concerns about poisonings too with the use of e-cigarettes as data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that e-cigarette liquid poisoning comes from accidental ingestion of the e-liquid or exposure through the eye and the skin. Ingestion of e-cigarette liquids containing nicotine can cause acute toxicity and possibly death. Due to lithium batteries which are easily overcharged and have a short circuit, some of these devices have also exploded in their users’ faces or simply in the pockets of their denims while seriously injuring them.

In most places, indoor smoking is not allowed and it is interesting to note that no such rule applies with e-cigarette use even though they also contain harmful substances. It is true that e-cigarettes do not contain smoke, however they do expose others to secondhand emissions. Formaldehyde, benzene and tobacco-specific nitrosamines (all carcinogens) have been found coming from second-hand emissions and the American Lung Association supports prohibiting the use of e‐cigarettes in worksites and public places, and including e-cigarettes under smoke free laws with other tobacco products.

There are various reasons for their use. One of the reasons why the youth use e-cigs is because of the flavours. However, their use can serve as a gateway to using real cigarettes as they develop tolerance to the nicotine in e-cigs. Owing to these factors, the use of e-cigs among youth is now a significant public health concern as the youth are using them at increasingly alarming rates. Between 2011 and 2015, the U.S. Surgeon General found e-cigarette use among high school students increased by 900%, with more teens now using e-cigarettes than cigarettes. The tobacco industry aggressively markets e-cigarettes to youth, glamorizing their use in advertisements. These devices also do not have a legal age restriction and can be sold to anyone. However, the manufacturers of these devices market them as a means for cigarette smokers to quit smoking and that’s currently their main use.


    1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2006). “E-Cigarette Use Among Youth and Young Adults: A Report of the Surgeon General.”
    2. Goniewicz ML, Hajek P, McRobbie H. (2014). “Nicotine Content of Electronic Cigarettes, its Release in Vapour and its Consistency Across Batches: Regulatory Implications.” Addiction. 109:500-7.
    3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). “Quickstats: Percent Distribution of Cigarette Smoking Status Among Adult Current E-Cigarette Users, by Age Group, National Health Interview Survey”, United States, 2015. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 65(42):1177.

Bakani M. Ncube is the ZPSA Student Exchange Officer 2016-17, Contact Person 2017-18 and the World Healthcare Students Symposium International Campus Ambassador. He is passionate about writing and Public Health.

Alphonse Mbarushimana; RPSA President on leadership and his IPSF story

IPSF Story

My own story in IPSF is not too long. In 2013, I was in the first year of University, I got to know that pharmacy students are connected internationally through an awesome global platform (IPSF). I started being engaged with its program and working with high-spirited people who bring their best abilities to make and keep the federation higher. I co-organized the 4th IPSF African Regional Symposium, Leaders In Training, Trainers Development Camp 2016 and three consecutive RPSA International Pharmaceutical Symposiums. The leadership positions I held were: IPSF Policy Committee Member, IPSF Pharmacy Education Advocacy Coordinator 2015, IPSF Contact Person 2016. I’ve been recently nominated to be a leader of partnership team in professional development events. Being involved at such level opened my eyes and helped me to discover my potential to I could not have seen before.

I am not yet where I want to be but every step I am taking is another step towards achieving my goal. I wish my fellow healthcare professionals to have a spirit that will take IPSF to another level and make the world a better place – a place everybody would wish to live in.


Changes require leadership and partnership. It’s still early to evaluate the work I’ve done so far and so hard to measure my ability by considering what I have done. I think the greatest value I have is my ability to adapt to changes. It’s a big challenge for our generation to be able to understand well what they can be the best at. My vision is optimistic, I will never ever allow anybody to take it from me. It may take long to see it happen, but I do hope that it becomes much more than it is right now.  Being a leader in any field means a lot of things on both leadership position holder and people who are following. It is best to envision what you want to see, find out where is your place and how you can contribute. If you go contrary to this, you become a leader for nothing.

My fellows can learn from that as I learn a lot from them too. When you get a chance to put in practice the skills you have acquired, it’s a way of accumulating more experience you never get from anywhere else. Being engaged in such way, it helps you to learn and improve yourself, to have better and greater influence on your society and region at large. Whatever we do in our daily life and call it small thing or not big enough in our eyes, counts for something great to make long journeys shorter because it may be one of the ways to go the high mile for you or your generation. Just give it a try, make mistakes and fail but be sure to get out of the situation with tons of lessons. When we keep saying the same things and go back with no better decision on what to do, we  find ourselves with no change in future. Do not wait for that  time to come, just move on.

As drops that make an ocean are small things, what you are able to do now will open a door of doing great things you desire to achieve in years to come. Connections are the key! They are the people who connect you to other people and make you strong.  

IPSF AfRO members talk about WHSS 2017

The World Healthcare Students Symposium (WHSS) is the world’s biggest student conference, a biennial global multidisciplinary  summit that brings together healthcare students and healthcare professionals under one roof to learn, discuss and draw inspiration from eminent speakers, policy makers and renowned global health leaders. Rwanda Pharmaceutical Students Association(RPSA), a member of IPSF AfRO is set to host the 7th WHSS this year from November 23-27, 2017 in Kigali Rwanda. Othniel Nimbabazi, 7th WHSS External Relations Vice Chairperson sought the views of our members on the upcoming symposium. 

Safari Justin – DRC

For us CEP-UOB/ D.R.Congo, hosting the WHSS in the AfRO region is a great opportunity (more than an opportunity) to show to all parts of the word how strong Africa is.  It will be a good moment for us to share with others our knowledge and our cultures (the best in the word). It will also be a moment for us to learn about how the health sciences evolve in other regions of the word and what we can do to reach a perfect healthcare system in Africa. For us it’s a golden opportunity. Viva Africa!

Abdulhafeez Mustapha – Nigeria

I have met with quite a number of Rwandans at different events. I am particularly confident in the Team because of my previous interactions with them. I expect to see a well-planned event from the team while having a wonderful experience during the symposium. Conferences like this brings a lot of opportunities especially networking among other professionals from all the world, this will set the ball rolling for inter-professional collaborations. 

Robin Valencia Arendse- South Africa

Having WHSS in our region (Africa) one can expect to learn a lot more about management of conditions which are generally only found in Africa; these include a greater insight of TB treatment or how we handle medicine policies in bringing medicines created elsewhere in the world to our continent. Lastly, if we look at healthcare professionals in general, the world believes they need to send doctors to our countries as if we need them, but they are the ones that need us in fact. Africa provides a platform of learning [things] which cannot be found in books. [We learn through] what we see and are exposed to everyday and by being exposed we have a better understanding of providing information on treatment plans of resistant strains of TB as well as balancing poverty with good healthcare.

Anyase Ronald Amaza- Uganda

It is a pleasure  to have the WHSS, the biggest health students gathering in the whole world to be organized in Africa, especially the region of East Africa. Being Ugandans, we congratulate our colleagues in Rwanda for taking the extreme mandate to host this benevolent activity. As East Africans, we believe this will give us a chance to show our competence in healthcare delivery, and through organizing of such noble events. The host is the Rwanda Pharmaceutical Students Association (RPSA) our sisters in the land of a thousand Hills. They represent the pharmacy fraternity, which makes us happier that the pharmacy profession is steadily growing with a lot of promise. We expect to see a plethora of guests from all over the World offering various health science courses to discuss how we can work together as a team of different experts in the medical field so as to foster achievement of health and well-being for all, a mandate fronted by WHO. I expect the best conference ever in the history of health science students’ symposia in the World.

Isabella ilikwell Lokurukam- Kenya

I personally think that the WHSS couldn’t have come to Africa, and especially East Africa, at a better time and under a better theme. I feel like we are that generation of young Africans in healthcare who can make an impact that will be felt for generations to come. I look forward to an inspirational and fruitful symposium in November!

Eric Konan- Ivory Coast

The World Healthcare Students’ Symposium (WHSS) is an event that brings together medicine, pharmacy and allied health sciences students in an international forum to generate discussion and understanding between the professions, develop skills and awareness of concepts in multidisciplinary working, and be advocates for a cooperative multidisciplinary approach to patient-centered care to optimize health outcomes.

Bakani Ncube- Zimbabwe

For me, I’m excited that the WHSS is coming to Sub Saharan Africa for the first time as well as that IPSF is hosting it too for the first time! Both these facts make me proud of being an African pharmacy student and I would like to see Africa shine and take center stage. As for my expectations, I expect a world class symposium that unites healthcare professionals and healthcare students from all over the world, interacting and uniting under one roof and discussing pressing global health issues-2 of which are close to me personally i.e the One Health concept and AMR. It should also be a time to make long lasting friendships that will endure the test of time

Joel Kibona- Tanzania

I feel proud for the WHSS to be in our region this year! This is a great opportunity for our members to participate and learn! More, they will have time to interact and connect with others and expand their scope of understanding the health field, that will enhance unity and cooperation toward searching for solutions in the field.

Alex Bayoh- Sierra Leone

The significance of hosting the WHSS in Africa can’t be overemphasized. The need for strategic healthcare reform that suits the region has been clearly indicated by recent health related tragedies such as Ebola and Cholera outbreaks and the increase rate of malnutrition among infants in the sub regions. The healthcare delivery system in Africa needs transformation from the already existing conventional approach to a modified multidisciplinary healthcare approach. As we fight to be innovative by introducing new techniques and technologies into the practice, we also need to include effective and safe use of orthodox and complementary medicine into the practice. The WHSS will be a platform to discuss, debate and find solutions to the health issues that affects our region and place them in order of priority based on their importance and urgency so that health policies that will be made  will have significant improvement on our region.

Editor’s note: Visit to learn more about the symposium.