Re-engineering of South Africa’s primary health care system: where is the pharmacist?
Bradley, Hazel A.
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South Africa’s transition towards a district-based health system (DHS) aims to offer health promotion and prevention services at community level, through re-engineered primary health care (PHC) services. Along with pharmacy workforce shortages and service delivery challenges, health reform is a clarion call to strategically re-position the pharmacist’s role in DHS strengthening. The pharmacist’s involvement in the three DHS streams, namely the clinical specialist support teams, school health services and municipal ward-based PHC outreach teams, is pertinent. This paper contextualises pharmacists’ current peripheral role in the health system, discusses a team-based approach and identifies opportunities to integrate pharmacy students into the re-vitalised PHC framework. Re-positioning of pharmacists within district clinical specialist support and school health teams could create opportunities for community-based and population-based services whereby a range of clinical and pharmaceutical services could materialise. Pharmacy training institutions could strengthen the DHS through established partnerships with the community and health services. Academic service learning programmes could integrate pharmacy students as part of the PHC outreach teams to promote community health. Interdependence between the health services, pharmacy schools and the community would create a platform to contextualise learning and dismantle existing silos between them. Multi-sectoral engagement could enable pharmacy schools to design strategies to optimise pharmaceutical service delivery and align their activities towards social accountability.