The Weekly Prescription: Your Dose of National Well-Being : A Journey Towards a Healthier Kumba Banjul, Samba Banjul

Jul 10, 2024, 11:09 AM | Article By: Dr. Ismail D Badjie, PharmD

Introduction: Breaking the Silence for a Healthier Future
In the heart of Gambian society, where tradition and modernity intertwine, a quiet revolution is needed.

 From the vibrant streets of Banjul to the serene villages along the river, it's time for Kumba Banjul and Samba Banjul – our sisters and brothers – to embark on a journey towards open dialogues about health. This article aims to shatter the silence surrounding health issues, particularly during courtship and marriage, and chart a path towards a healthier, more informed Gambia.

The Mirage of Invulnerability: Samba's Health Dilemma

Ask a young Gambian man about his favorite football team or the latest smartphone, and you'll get an animated response. But inquire about his last health check-up, and you're likely to be met with awkward silence or dismissive bravado. "I feel fine," or "I don't need check-ups," are common refrains, masking a dangerous neglect of health.

This cavalier attitude often persists until a crisis emerges. Suddenly, issues like hypertension, diabetes, or even more intimate concerns like erectile dysfunction force men to confront their mortality. By then, preventable conditions may have progressed to critical stages.

The Burden of Silence: Kumba's Health Challenges

Similarly, Gambian women often prioritize the well-being of their families over their own health. From young girls navigating the complexities of menstrual health to mothers juggling multiple responsibilities, women frequently downplay their health concerns.

"I'm fine," or "It's not that bad," become mantras, even as issues like reproductive health problems, nutritional deficiencies, or non-communicable diseases silently take their toll. The culture of endurance, while admirable in many contexts, can be detrimental when it comes to health.

The Unspoken Truth: Health Discussions in Relationships

Traditionally, when a young Gambian man courts a woman, or when families discuss marriage arrangements, conversations revolve around family backgrounds, education, and financial stability. However, one crucial aspect often remains unaddressed: health. This silence, born from cultural taboos and misconceptions, can have far-reaching consequences for future generations.

It's time to normalize health discussions as an integral part of relationship building. Just as we inquire about a potential partner's career aspirations or family values, we must also have the courage to discuss health histories, genetic predispositions, and future health goals.

Sickle Cell Awareness: A Vital Conversation

One critical health topic that demands attention, especially for couples considering marriage and children, is sickle cell disease. This genetic condition, prevalent in West Africa, can have severe implications for offspring if both parents carry the trait.

Premarital sickle cell screening should become as commonplace as other wedding preparations. Knowing one's sickle cell status isn't about stigmatization; it's about making informed decisions and being prepared for potential health challenges. Couples found to both carry the sickle cell trait can benefit from genetic counseling to understand their options and the potential risks for their future children.

Unveiling the Shadows: Mental Health and Genetic Predispositions

 Another crucial aspect of health that demands attention in courtship and marriage discussions is the family history of mental health disorders. Conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and anxiety disorders often have genetic components. While having a family history doesn't guarantee that an individual will develop these conditions, it can increase the risk.

Openly discussing these matters isn't about stigmatizing or rejecting potential partners. Rather, it's about fostering understanding, preparedness, and support. For instance, if Kumba's family has a history of depression, or Samba's relatives have dealt with bipolar disorder, sharing this information allows the couple to be vigilant about potential symptoms, seek early intervention if needed, and create a supportive environment. It also opens the door for discussions about stress management, lifestyle choices that promote mental health, and the importance of destigmatizing mental health issues in our communities.

Moreover, understanding these genetic predispositions can be crucial when planning a family. Some mental health conditions can be exacerbated by hormonal changes during pregnancy or the stress of new parenthood. By being aware and prepared, couples can work with healthcare providers to develop strategies for monitoring and managing mental health throughout their relationship and potential parenthood journey.

Remember, having a mental health condition or a family history of one doesn't define a person or diminish their worth as a partner. Instead, this knowledge empowers couples to face potential challenges together, fostering a relationship built on honesty, understanding, and mutual support. It's time we bring mental health out of the shadows and into our courtship conversations, paving the way for healthier, more resilient Gambian families.

Pitstops: Essential Health Checkpoints for Kumba and Samba

As Kumba and Samba journey through life, regular health check-ups are crucial. Here are key milestones and corresponding health tests for both:

  1. The Courtship Pitstop (Late teens to 20s):

   - Blood group and Rhesus factor testing

   - Sickle cell trait screening

   - STI screening

   - General physical exam

   For Kumba: Pap smear (starting at 21), breast self-exams

   For Samba: Testicular self-exams

  1. The Marriage Pitstop (20s to 30s):

   - All tests from the Courtship Pitstop

   - Fertility assessment if planning pregnancy

   - Genetic counseling if indicated

   - Mental health evaluation

   For Kumba: Iron deficiency screening, folic acid supplementation

   For Samba: Blood pressure and cholesterol check

   2.  The Family Planning Pitstop (30s to 40s):

   - All previous tests

   - Cardiovascular risk assessment

   - Diabetes screening

   - Thyroid function test

   For Kumba: Mammogram, perimenopause assessment

   For Samba: Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test

    3.   The Wisdom Years Pitstop (50s and beyond):

   - All previous tests

   - Colonoscopy

   - Bone density scan

   - Hearing and vision tests

   For Kumba: Menopause management

   For Samba: Prostate health check

Breaking Societal Norms: Health Talks in Courtship and Marriage

It's time to challenge the notion that discussing health during courtship or marriage negotiations is taboo or brings bad luck. Instead, we should view these conversations as acts of love and responsibility. Here are ways to normalize health discussions:

  1. Premarital health counseling: Encourage couples to attend health counseling sessions together before marriage.
  2. Family health history sharing: Make it a tradition for families to openly discuss their health histories when marriage is being considered.
  3. Genetic compatibility testing: Normalize genetic testing for conditions like sickle cell trait as part of marriage preparations.
  4. Health goals setting: Encourage couples to set joint health goals and support each other in achieving them.
  5. Community education: Organize community events that promote open dialogues about health between genders and generations.

Empowering Kumba and Samba: A Holistic Approach to Health

To truly improve health outcomes in The Gambia, we need a paradigm shift that empowers both Kumba and Samba to take charge of their health:

  1. Education: Provide accurate, culturally sensitive health information from an early age.
  2. Access: Ensure quality healthcare services are accessible and affordable for all Gambians.
  3. Gender-Sensitive Care: Train healthcare providers to address the unique needs of both genders.
  4. Community Engagement: Involve community leaders, religious figures, and educators in promoting health awareness.
  5. Policy Change: Advocate for policies that prioritize preventive care, health education, and premarital health screenings.

Addressing Kumba's Unique Health Needs

Reproductive Health: More Than Just Childbearing

For Kumba, reproductive health isn't merely about having children; it's a cornerstone of overall well-being. Yet, in The Gambia, topics like menstrual hygiene, contraception, and sexual health often remain shrouded in silence and misconception. This silence can lead to serious health issues going undetected and untreated.

Moreover, the focus on women's reproductive capabilities often overshadows other crucial aspects of health. Conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, or uterine fibroids can significantly impact a woman's quality of life, yet they often go undiagnosed or are dismissed as "normal women's problems."

The weight of chronic stress, whether from balancing work and family or facing societal pressures, can wreak havoc on hormonal balance and overall health. Pair that with often-neglected aspects like nutrition and physical activity, and it's a recipe for long-term health issues.

Tackling Samba's Health Challenges

Erectile Dysfunction: A Silent Alarm

For Samba, erectile dysfunction isn't merely a condition to be brushed aside; it's the body's resonant alarm signaling deeper underlying issues. Lifestyle choices, often made in the hustle and bustle of life, can inadvertently contribute to this situation. Leading a sedentary life, anchored to chairs and screens, diminishes the necessary blood circulation and physical vitality.

Then there's the modern diet, rife with processed foods, sugars, and unhealthy fats, which can tip the scales, literally and figuratively. Obesity, especially an expanding waist circumference, isn't just about aesthetics; it's a forewarning. Excess belly fat impedes blood flow, a crucial component for sexual function, and is frequently linked to vascular diseases and lower testosterone levels.

The Danger of Self-Medication and Counterfeit Remedies

In the face of health challenges and limited access to quality healthcare, many Gambians turn to self-medication or unregulated remedies. For Samba, this might mean seeking out counterfeit erectile dysfunction drugs with names like "Super Lion" or "Magic Horse." Kumba might resort to untested herbal remedies for menstrual or fertility issues.

These practices not only mask underlying health problems but can also lead to dangerous side effects or drug interactions. It's crucial to educate both Kumba and Samba about the risks of such practices and provide access to safe, regulated medications.

The pharmaceutical landscape in Gambia is becoming increasingly concerning due to the influx of counterfeit drugs. While enticing product names might appeal to vanity, the underlying dangers these products present are both real and deeply troubling.

Conclusion: A Healthier Future for Kumba and Samba

The health of our nation depends on the well-being of both Kumba and Samba. By breaking the silence around health issues, challenging harmful stereotypes, and empowering all Gambians to prioritize their health – especially during courtship and marriage – we can build a stronger, more vibrant future.

Remember, discussing health with your partner or potential spouse isn't just about avoiding problems; it's about building a foundation of trust, openness, and shared responsibility for your future together.

The heart-wrenching truth is that countless Gambian men and women, shackled by societal expectations and their own neglect, risk missing the most cherished moments in their children's lives: their weddings, college graduations, and the simple joy of sharing family tales with eager grandchildren. Alarmingly, the average Gambian man doesn't live to see his 65th birthday, while women often suffer silently with chronic health issues.

This untimely departure or prolonged suffering often pivots families into a grim reality, with young widows bearing the weight of their families, thrust into challenges they hadn't prepared for. The old saying rings painfully true: "We spend our youth chasing wealth and societal prestige, only to expend that very wealth in our later years, desperately seeking health."

Call to Action

To all Gambians – your health matters, and so does the health of your future family. Don't wait for a crisis to prioritize well-being. Encourage open discussions about health in your relationships, families, and communities. Seek regular check-ups, ask questions, and arm yourself with accurate health information.

Like many health issues that lead to early death, especially from non-communicable diseases, knowing early the cards you've been dealt puts you in a position to start playing defense. Arm yourself with all the proper information, modern medicine, and technology available.

Let's work together to create a Gambia where both Kumba and Samba don't just survive, but thrive in health and vitality. Our nation's future depends on it.

In solidarity and health,


In peace, love, and good health,

Dr. IDB.

For me information, follow the work of Dr. Badjie and his Innovarx WOW team on www.igh.gm and on social media @innovarxglobal @drIsmailBadjie.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for general understanding and does not constitute a diagnosis. For specific concerns or detailed health advice, always consult your designated healthcare professional.