Webinar: Evolving Role of Pharmacists in increasing access to self-care beyond COVID-19 in Africa
The goal of this webinar is to explore the role of pharmacists in advancing self-care in Africa. This will be done through an open dialogue between pharmacists themselves, doctors, regulatory professionals and policy practitioners with the aim of reducing burden on the health care systems and accelerating Universal Health Coverage.
Self-medication is seen as a key element of self-care where individuals treat self-recognized symptoms or illnesses. The list of medications available to individuals to self-medicate differs from country to country. However, common links across all African countries are pharmacies or clinics, where most consumers receive or purchase their non-prescription medications (NP). This makes pharmacists - healthcare providers who guide consumers towards making a responsible and appropriate choice. Pharmacists after physicians and family and friends are recognized as information sources that consumers consult about management of their health and minor ailments before buying NP.
Even in cases where a consumer comes across an NP via advertisements, they rely on dialogue with pharmacists or more information. Consumers turn to them for advice predominantly because they are seen as trustworthy, which creates a strong sense of confidence in the recommendations they provide for treating selfmanageable ailments. This trust and confidence may be owing to a perceived impartiality. Pharmacists’ role also includes conducting basic examinations and administering and dispensing medicines in line with country specific regulations.
The COVID-19 pandemic has further made recognition of the role of the pharmacist’s paramount. A study in the UK demonstrated that 30% of visits to physicians are unnecessary and a pharmacist’s advice in these cases would suffice reducing the burden on the healthcare system. The need for recognition is rather urgent in the context of self-care in Africa, which is home to 17% of world’s population yet has a mere 3% of the global health workforce and consequently is subject to 25% of world’s diseases.6 The situation is further complicated when private practices are considered e.g. in South Africa, 84% of the population is served by mere 30% of doctors working in public practices.
When pharmacists come into picture, they not only significantly reduce the risk of misuse and abuse of NP but also that of counterfeits. They also contribute to the advantages outlined by WHO which include reduction in costs and increase in the effectiveness of care, all of which contribute to achieving Universal Health Coverage.
Pharmacists in Africa are currently underutilized resources largely due to limited awareness amongst the public and other key stakeholders regarding the skills and services they could offer. Hence, a lot needs to be done in order to educate the public and other key stakeholders regarding the expertise of pharmacists and their role in self-care.