Time to be counted: Pharmacists as a key untapped resource for Public Health

Lloyd Matowe, Pharmaceutical Systems Africa And Amani Thomas Mori, Muhimbili University Of Health And Allied Sciences, Tanzania

Population health deals with health beyond the individual. It addresses the combined impact of social determinants such as environment and social structure and includes health care. With the role of pharmacists traditionally centering on the supply and distribution of medicines, pharmacists, particularly in low and middle income countries, have been viewed as having little to do with population health. Yet ironically, the community pharmacy is often the first port of call for most people with minor ailments. Pharmacists are thus strategically positioned to provide essential services that promote, maintain and improve the health of the population in the broadest sense.

Pharmacy is an age old profession that deals with the science of making and administering medicines. Over the years, the profession has evolved to encompass a wide range of service areas. In high income countries these areas and roles are well defined and structured. In low and middle income countries, this is not the case. Often pharmacists in these counties have to carve their own individual career pathways that may not bear any relationship to their professional training. In most cases however, pharmacists in low and middle income countries work in dispensing roles, mainly in community pharmacies.