Three Ways Community Pharmacists Could Support the Public Health Sector in Rwanda

Photo by Pharmacie Conseil

Rwanda is recognised among the leading countries worldwide on Universal Health Coverage; and this has been mostly driven by strong policies on access to primary health care, where health centres and district hospitals have been empowered to offer optimised primary health care.

Despite this, the public health sector has been criticised over the past few months for ineffectiveness in public hospitals and patients overcrowding the available workforce and regression in diseases prevalence — like the case of Malaria.

On another hand, the number of retail and community pharmacies have significantly increased. This, for me, is an untapped opportunity for a public-private partnership that is much need to make leaps in primary health care indicators and access to basic health services if community pharmacists were empowered enough.

Beyond the popular belief that the role of a pharmacist is limited to selling drugs, their knowledge and skills in delivering clinical services and primary health care — on which they are trained — remains untapped. Pharmacists could easily relieve the public health sector of certain burdens.

1 — Vaccinations Program

Pharmacists are well positioned to increase public awareness and access to immunisation, including routine adult vaccines and travel vaccines.

2 — Care for Chronic Diseases

Chronic Diseases Care is principally made of provision of information and long-term support for patients, caregivers and families. These patients often renew their prescriptions and the role of pharmacists is limited to re-filling. Pharmacists are, whatsoever, able to design tools and educate caregivers or families for this purpose.

3 — Health and Medicines Information

This is already happening. There are many cases where people ask pharmacists — more than any other health professional — about different information on diseases, nutrition, and medicines. The Government could easily channel public awareness and disease prevention information through pharmacists to ensure more effective and wide reach.

THESE three aspects, among many others, have proven to be very effective in countries which champion primary health care and universal health coverage. They could be a starting point in Rwanda.

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