Pharmacies play a critical role in providing access to reproductive health services in low-resource settings in Kenya. Without this private-sector resource, the country would not be able to meet the needs of its young people. Kenya’s National Family Planning Guidelines for Service Providers allow pharmacists and pharmaceutical technologists to counsel, dispense, and provide condoms, pills, and injectables. This access is critical to the health and well-being of youths and the overall achievement of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development goals.
Pharmacies play a critical role in providing access to reproductive health services in low-resource settings. Various studies show that many young people receive contraceptive services from pharmacies as they are the community’s most accessible and affordable outlets.
“When we talk about the need to increase access to contraceptives, we know the reality. The reality is without the private sector, we will not be able to meet the needs of young people, for about 80% of health care facilities here are privately owned, with the majority being pharmacies,” says Mwanakarama Athman, Mombasa County’s reproductive health coordinator.
Kenya’s National Family Planning Guidelines for Service Providers allow pharmacists and pharmaceutical technologists to counsel, dispense, and provide condoms, pills, and injectables. Access to sexual and reproductive health services for youth is critical to their health and well-being and the overall achievement of the goals laid out in the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The Challenge Initiative (TCI), through a partnership with Kenya Pharmaceutical Association (KPA) and Mombasa County, worked to strengthen the capacity of health care providers in pharmacies to provide quality contraceptive services to the urban youth. This partnership delivered tangible benefits for young people.
The 50 pharmacies initially recruited in the program served over 20,136 young people between June 2019 and May 2021.
The successes registered in the program’s pilot phase inspired other pharmacies that requested to be included in the program. Twenty-nine additional pharmacies were added to the agenda.
Mwanakarama notes that partnerships between public health systems and the private sector improve health outcomes by increasing reach and service for all people. The availability of reliable data enhances this.
Mwanakarama argues that data has the potential to inform more equitable policies, streamline decision-making, and bridge gaps in the delivery of health care services. “The way data is visualized and used can make the difference between interesting information and information that saves lives.”
Dr. David Miller, the chairperson of the Kenya Pharmaceutical Association Mombasa chapter, argues that while metrics to measure the uptake of family planning services only focused on public or private health care facilities, those efforts could not effectively capture the work done with the pharmacies.
In October 2019, pharmacies in Mombasa County began record-keeping at their sites. The county program implementation teams provided hands-on data entry and quality control training.
Dr. Miller says that KPA also worked with the pharmacies to review filing systems and instituted more efficient data management practices.
Between April and June 2020, KPA supported the pharmacies’ data entry and records management staff to conduct a data validation and cleaning exercise to update data reported from all 50 pharmacies.
Mwanakarama notes that pharmacies are now able to report data to the government health system. A unique identification code for pharmacies was created to enable them to enter data into the health information management system. Thus, previously non-existent data from local communities where pharmacies operate is now available.