Historical perspective, growth and development
The Department of Community Medicine was established in 1969 under the auspices of Institute of Health and Faculty of Medicine, Ahmadu Bello University. The Department came into existence out of realization that Nigeria, a fast developing country, needs community physicians with a liberal community outlook rather than clinicians engaged only in individual care and treatment with little time for social responsibility. While other clinical departments of the Faculty equip the medical students with up-to-date knowledge and skill to become efficient experts in surgery and medicine and other related disciplines, teaching programmes in the Department of Community Medicine is geared to orient the medical students to the social aspects of medical care, how their professional knowledge could be applied to improve the health of the people, to protect them from hostile environment and to provide necessary service to raise productive ability of the people.
The Department has a teaching programme right from 100 – 600 levels. Pre-clinical teaching of community medicine are independently organised to impart knowledge and skill in handling mass community phenomenon. This involves teaching programmes across the disciplines such as medical sociology, biostatistics, demography, environmental health, nutrition, epidemiology and health education.
In the clinical years of medicine, teaching of community medicine is mostly organized in consultation and collaboration with other clinical departments. However, necessary knowledge on the epidemiology of communicable and non-communicable diseases, laboratory medicine, health education, entomology and nutrition are imparted independently.
On the social medicine lectures, the Department provides training in health organization, primary health care (PHC) and the health structures and functions of the PHC programmes of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
The teaching of community medicine is based on the community and this requires well equipped health facility. In this respect all assistance regarding staff, finance and equipment to run health facilities in different parts of Zaria and Malumfashi communities where the students have the opportunity to learn and understand the problems of the community are provided.
The Institute of Health and later the ABUTH has been deeply involved in the administration of Department of Community Medicine. The department has two arms, the faculty and the teaching hospital. Budget allocation, staff appointment and finances are provided separately by both Teaching Hospital and University. The Credit goes to Professor Umaru Shehu who was the first Nigerian Head of Department and who has since been associated with its development based on this concept. The Department has indeed developed over the years from a 2 staff members in 1969 to its present strength and is still developing.
The history of the Department cannot be complete without mention of the contribution of Finnish and Liverpool research teams who partook in various research programmes at Malumfashi in collaboration with the department. Liverpool team established Endemic Diseases Research Units and provided useful curative, preventive and laboratory services in the period 1971 – 1979. The Finnish team came in 1973 as a joint research outfit with UNICEF. The team came with following objective
- To teach medical students, student nurses and medical auxiliary students about rural and maternal child health (MCH) problems and thus help the department and school concerned
- To provide MCH services in some selected villages using mobile units at Dayi, Kafur, Ruwan Sanyi and Malumfashi
- To carry out a follow up rogramme to assess and evaluate the impact of the above programmes on the health of mothers and children of rural areas concerned. The Department continued to develop through rendering these services at various levels and training of medical and para-medical students until 1981 when another feather was added to its cap; establishment of community health officers training programme.