Training community pharmacists to improve access to family planning services

Worried by the low level of uptake of contraceptive and family planning services in the country, medical experts have recommended the employment of community pharmacists (CPs) to reverse the situation.

They said that providing women who desire to space the birth of their children with access to contraceptives to do so is a key intervention to improve maternal outcomes.

Consequently, medical experts at the IntegratE project with support from the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH), the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) and the states ministries of health in Lagos and Kaduna are training CPs in a pilot to demonstrate the capacity of the providers to provide a wider range of family planning and primary healthcare services.

Head Marketing, Social Business Enterprise, Society for Family Health (SFH), Donald Willie Etim, told journalists: “So far a total of 300 CPs have been trained in the two states. It is expected that this training will equip the CPs with the requisite skills to be able to provide suitable family planning services and referrals to clients seeking to space or delay the birth of their children.”

Etim added: “Community Pharmacists play a vital role in providing access to healthcare services for millions of Nigerians, it is therefore imperative that policies and practices be entrenched to enable them provide a wider range of services even as the country moves towards achieving universal health coverage.”

In Nigeria, statistics show that about 771,000 unsafe abortions and 13,000 maternal deaths can be averted when women have access to and use modern contraceptives for family planning or child spacing. Also, modern contraceptives help avoid over two million unintended pregnancies most of which could end up in abortion and threaten the lives of women.

IntegratE project aims at improving the quality of family planning services delivered by CPs and PPMVs through the implementation of a tiered accreditation system and strengthening the quality of service delivery.

The project which is co-funded by Merck for Mothers and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundations is currently being piloted in underserved areas of Lagos and Kaduna states.

Etim added: “IntegratE project supports the PCN in its regulatory mandate of controlling the practice of Pharmacy and PPMVs. This is important because much of the deterioration of Nigeria’s health services is blamed on the proliferation of unsupervised, unregulated and untrained informal sector health providers, who are the first port of call for health services provision nationally. Thus, with a drive to promote quality health service delivery through the informal health providers such as PPMVs, PCN leveraged on the country’s task shifting and task sharing policy of 2014 which is currently being revised, to spearhead the categorization of PPMVs into three tiers according to qualification. The Tiered Accreditation system is expected to strengthen the regulation and control of PPMV practice and improve overall quality of services they render.”

According to the 2018 National Demographic Health Survey (NDHS), the country has a very low Contraceptive Prevalence Rate (CPR) of 12 per cent. CPR is the percentage of women of reproductive age (15 – 49 years) who are using, or whose sexual partners are using, any form of contraception is very low in Nigeria.