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Meet our Emerging Leaders: Elvis Ndikum Achiri, 2016

What led to your interest in preventive medicine, who or what motivated you, what were the challenges you’ve been through.

Many people both home and abroad call me doctor, but sincerely I am not a doctor. My passion for public health with over nine years of practical experience has given me a broader perspective towards proposing solutions related to diverse national and global health challenges. Being healthy is indispensable and needs a holistic approach towards reaching the most vulnerable population. My zeal to understand humans and their health needs is very important, I identify and propose sustainable solutions with great motivation and passion.

How did you come across the EL programme and what made you think it was relevant for you to apply, who among the faculty you met inspired you the most and what did you enjoy most about the programme.

I got information about WHF the Emerging Leaders Program through email updates during my work with the Cameroon Coalition to Counter Tobacco. While working with the coalition as Campaign Officer from 2015-2016. Given the focus on tobacco control and heart disease, this was relevant due to my interest and concern about tobacco use being a major risk factor for heart disease.

The Faculty that inspired me was Dr Eduardo Bianco a tobacco control champion from Uruguay. I had the opportunity to meet him in person after I first saw him being awarded the Luther Terry Award for Excellence in tobacco control during the 16th World Conference on Tobacco Health that took place in Abu Dhabi in March 2015.

One year later, I had the privilege to work with Dr Bianco as colleague from 2017 to 2019 as Advocacy Officer for the WHO AFRO region with the Framework Convention Alliance (FCA) for tobacco control. I enjoyed the group work, as part of the Smoke-free group the process of drafting the project and decision on implementation country. This was an ordeal process! This was very interesting to see how 8 people from almost all continents (USA, Canada, Nigeria, Cameroon, New Zealand, Uganda, Ukraine, and Rwanda) had to draft a project for implementation. Finally, we succeeded to draft our project that was eligible for funding. Thanks to this project, I had the opportunity to represent Cameroon during the Particle Measurement (PM2.5) training with focus on quality air monitoring in eateries and bars in Kampala from July 4-5, 2016.

Also, a Co-author of KOMPLY project in Kampala, Uganda. The KOMPLY project is a research initiative aimed at evaluating compliance with 100% smoke-free laws. This research revealed that compliance to the 100% smoke-free law was very low due to limited understanding and involvement of compliance authorities and stakeholders involved. Smoking and secondhand smoke continue to be a major risk factor and threat to heart health. The outcome of this project is currently being used by CSOs to encourage and advocate for compliance to the 100% smoke free law in Uganda enacted in 2015. Thus, contributing to prevent morbidity and mortality related to tobacco use.

Thanks to the Emerging Leaders programme and consistent efforts to support heart health and beyond, I am a founding member of INSPIRE, a campaign launched in The Hague last year October during the 49th Union World Conference on lung health as a speaker. This campaign aiming at mobilizing clinicians and health advocates for clean air with website: www.inspirecleanair.org .

I was recently selected among 40 by the World Organization of Family Doctors (WONCA) as a train the trainer in Cameroon for their air Pollution and Health pilot program for the next 18 months for LMIC’s. I will be training family doctors and other healthcare professionals from May 2019 for the next 18 months on how to advise patients and provide solutions related to air pollution and climate change challenges on heart and respiratory health.

I am also a Principal Investigator with the Global Asthma Network, currently collecting first global data with theme Global Surveillance of Breathing and the Environment in Yaounde with sample of 3000 participants (Children 6/7 years, 13/14 years adolescents and adults). This data collection will end in May 2019 and results will be used for meaningful advocacy to protect at risk populations; children, older adults, people suffering from respiratory disease and people with lower socio-economic status (SES).

Heart health will also be at the center of my advocacy efforts, given that as a train the trainer with WONCA on air pollution, I look forward to a continued follow up after 18 months towards building a strong community intervention mechanism for heart and respiratory health for doctors, healthcare professionals and community health workers similar to the HIV/AIDs, Malaria and Tuberculosis response within communities. Thus, providing solutions from the base and close to the community and patients.

Moreover, I am an active member of the International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union) since 2015. A member within the lung and child health working group. I am faculty of the air pollution and health training launched by the lung and child health working group in 2018. A member of the Pan African Thoracic Society (PATS), a gold member with the European Respiratory Society (ERS), a member of the American Thoracic Society (ATS), and a member of the PACT(UNAIDS) leadership team.  Also, I am the founder and president of a youth led organization called The Association for the Promotion of Youth Leadership, Advocacy and Volunteerism (APYLAV). Offered travel grants and scholarships to represent youths and Cameroon in global meetings in countries such as Abu Dhabi (UAE), Visakhapatnam, New Delhi, India, New York, US, Kampala, Uganda, Guadalajara, Mexico, Durban, South Africa, The Hague, The Netherlands and more.

My dream each day is being able to safe as many lives as possible from preventable deaths.