Reducing Dementia Through Creative Community Building in Nigeria


Traditional Awori dancers.

Dementia is group of related symptoms associated with ongoing decline of brain functioning resulting in memory loss, problems with thinking speed, mental sharpness, language and understanding. Dementia currently represent an urgent health problem among Aworis in Nigeria. The aowris are thought to be the oldest indigenous group in Nigeria.

The Nigeria Association for sport science and Aleduine estimates that one in ten Awori in Lagos is living with Dementia, although only one in three may know he/she has the disease. Aworis in Lagos state appears to be particularly vulnerable to Dementia. Their disproportionately high rates of this disease and other health problems appears to be related to insufficient access to education, information and health services as well as their lifestyle, which includes Nutrition and physical activity. 

We must address Dementia awareness and prevention in Aworis populations within Lagos state. However, we have learned that we cannot design effective health programs that promote behavioral changes unless we understand their benefits values, customs and constraints that creative community building offers. We believe this offers a means of helping individuals and communities look within at their strengths, assets and resources. It also provides strategies for developing the kinds of collaborations that can shape the vibrant and successful communities in which people want to live, work and play. Accessible and relevant health care is essential to such communities.

Our goal was to build alliances that created bridges between college and our Aworis communities, alliances that were mutually beneficial. Community organizers in Lagos state have been prompted by the population of fairly recent Awori community to implement outreach program dissymmetry information on healthy living practices. The local organization Oto-Ijanikin was interested in partnering with college researchers to design and carry out health and wellness program. Our objective was to integrate the experience, knowledge and interest of the community members, including Oto-Ijanikin staff, into the design and implementation of health outreach projects.

If organizations collaborate with community members, the diet and exercise programme (Aerobic and progressive Resistance) they design together are more likely to fit into a particular lifestyle, be more familiar and enjoyable and consequently are more likely to be adopted and successful overall. Community members have to be part of the design and decision making process at all levels. One time implementation of a project, however, is not enough members of the community also need to be in charge of insuring that the program continues.

To learn about local perceptions of health Ajao Adewale and Ajao Aboyewa Abiola conducted focus groups and preliminary interviews in the community. We conducted discussions in Ijanikin-otto and the majority of the 25 participant were from Lagos. Through open-ended questions, we gathered information that can inform the design of healthy living programs in Republic of Benin by understanding the ways in which lifestyle practices are altered through migration, community organizers can identify the needs associated with preventing and managing Dementia and other diseases.

We wanted to design dot and exercise programmes that are simple to follow and are cultural appropriate. Expanding local knowledge of the condition is the first step in preventing and treating Dementia. The second step requires better organization and also to maintain their independence. We decided to focus on disabling disorder that affects the way a person behaves, think speaks for examole, Aworis had to be able to be culturally appropriate. We also realized that a community support system was necessary.

Exercise and Nutrition deserve special attention because of their impact on health status and Dementia, nutrition and physical activity in order to examine the factors that contribute to Dementia and physical inactivity. The Aworis we spoke with clearly understands that dementia is a condition associated with the older age group and is a terrible illness. The cause are sleep apnea, Nasal strip, distress leading to challenging behavior.

We were surprise that the Aworis participants mentioned that physical activity one hour per week can reduce the change of developing A/2 hemer’s disease by almost 50%.

The word dementia is used to describe a group of symptoms, these include memory loss, confusion, mood changes and difficult with day to day task. In dementia, brain cells stop working properly. This happens inside specific areas of the brain, which can affect how you think, remember and communicate. Alzheimer is a disease that causes dementia. Other common diseases that cause dementia with lewy bodies and fronotemporal dementia.

Exercise help nerve cells in the brain communicate with each other. It help them receive message and this can improve the sending of signals in the brain, reducing the symptoms of A*2heimer’s disease for a time. Vascular dementia can occurred when blood flow to the brain becomes reduced. This type of dementia is linked to risk factors for vascular disease. People with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart problems have an increased risk of developing muscular dementia.

Disseminating information about dementia as a disease however, is only the first step. We know that we also had to design culturally. Appropriate programs to improve nutrition and increase exercise within the Awori community. Since the Awori’s indicated that they were less physically active than they had been in their native countries, what kind of exercise program could we come up with that was culturally relevant to the Awori community? We like Aerobic dance. All twelve of the Awori’s in one of our focus group said that they were interested in aerobic dance and would like to bring to bring their children. So, we developed an exercise programme using Awori style of aerobic dance. However, not all Awori group within the community felt comfortable with dancing. So we learned that one program emerged was “shaku shaku”, whose activity including dancing and jumping.

How could we get Awori to eat a healthier diet?

First, we needed to know what food they usually ate now that they live in Republic of Benin. In the focus group, participants reporting eating the following food frequently, vegetable, rice, beans and fruits. They often cooked with vegetable oil. The Awori’s explained to us that their family eat cassava flour. The Awori’s told us that they are always interested in trying new foods, especially for their children. We then looked for ways to modify traditional food with healthier options. We developed a food exchange and cooking contests.

Also, since participants had mentioned that they had difficulty finding the corn and vegetable they were accustomed to and had grown in gardens in their native countries we asked them about gardening in Republic of Benin. Some did have gardens here, but others said they had no space. One man said that it depends on who you rent from, not all have permission to have a garden. They did indicate that they were interested in a community garden and weaving, and would have time to participate. They asked if they would have to pay to participate and whether they could grow whatever they wanted. So we added to the idea of community weaving and garden to our program. We also decided to encourage them to raise their own fish, even helping them to fish from their ponds.

About the Authors 

Ajao-Aboyewa Abiola, N.C.E,, M.P.H is a prolific and passionate health promotion facilitator, teacher trainer and consultant. The CEO of TEDAK Education consults. She had her National Certificate in Education in Physical and Health Education, Bachelor science of Education in physical in physical and health education and Master in public health. She is presently working on her Phd thesis. Ajao-Aboyewa Abiola is a 3600 humble, vitreous, intelligent, highly resourceful, dynamic, problem solver, goal getter and role-model, godly woman.

Ajao Adewale Gbolabo is the founder and C.E.O of Jasy Horizons Nigeria. Jasy Horizons Nigeria trains peoples on community development and research. Ajao Adewale is a well respected researcher in Africa, a tireless scholar, and consistent Researcher. Ajao is the co-author of research and health oriented textbooks. He is also the first or second author on over 80 peer-reviewed scholarly articles and has conducted more than 10 scholarly presentation at various locations in Africa. He has conducted workshops for over one thousand lecturers on empirical research studies. Ajao Adewale lectured for several years in Physical and Health Education and Primary Education Department at Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education. He is also a visiting lecturer and Director of Research and Development, Dean Science and Technology, Adonai University Republic of Benin. He recevied an appointment as an Associate professor of Exercise Physiology and Health Promotion and Dean/HOD of Public Health Department Esep-le Berger University (The Shepherd University Republic of Benin) and was appointed Professor of Exercise Physiology and Health Promotions.

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