Letters

Use pharmacies to boost reproductive health self-care

pharmacy

Summary

  • In the pharmacies in the country, selling health, wellness and personal care products lie an untapped opportunity to buttress the sexual and reproductive health of young people.
  • Some of the services the pharmacies can provide include HIV and sexually transmitted infections checkups, screening for cervical cancer, contraceptives and advice on healthy sexual behaviour.

In the pharmacies in the country, selling health, wellness and personal care products lie an untapped opportunity to buttress the sexual and reproductive health of young people.

These facilities are loved for their accessibility as well as efficient dispensing of drugs to treat ailments without the drawn-out processes and long queues that are typical of public hospitals. In many cases, the medicines are also priced fairly.

These same attributes make them appealing as a trusted source of information and commodities to empower young people to make better choices relating to their sexuality. In many ways, they can help boost the ability to drive sexual and reproductive well-being.

Through them, young people can access a variety of contraceptives as well as information that will help them make better choices.

They can be empowered to provide the whole gamut of self-care, ranging from self-management (through medication, treatment, examination and administration), self-testing (including screening, diagnosis and monitoring) and self-awareness.

Some of the services the pharmacies can provide include HIV and sexually transmitted infections checkups, screening for cervical cancer, contraceptives and advice on healthy sexual behaviour.

This can help Kenyan youth enjoy their right to quality healthcare. It also builds clear understanding among them when choosing what works best, based on an individual's life plans and overall health. All this builds up towards strengthening acceptance and uptake of sexual and reproductive health self-care.

Being located in their neighbourhoods means that young people are likely to trust the pharmacies more than they would other health practitioners and facilities.

Mutual trust is the first definitive step towards increasing young people's engagement with reproductive health providers. It is this suspicion and mistrust that has kept many of them away from health workers, fuelling misuse of contraceptives.

An effective pharmacy can help encourage young people who are reluctant to go for screening and checkups. It can tackle the feeling of being judged that young people raise as a concern when interacting with healthcare workers.

However, for private pharmacies to effectively play this role, it requires measures to be put in place to strengthen them. At the moment, unhealthy competition has pharmacies focusing more on sales instead of prodding young people and offering them advice. This, coupled with gaps in regulation, risk compromising quality and service delivery.

Besides selling commodities, pharmacies need to be empowered to build the correct human resource mix, including nurses and clinicians with training and speciality in sexual and reproductive health, and mastery in contraception.

This calls for strategies to integrate pharmacies as a complementary network that effectively meets the needs of young people with the necessary support.

This will ensure that products and services are accessible, affordable and innovatively delivered to the Kenyan youth.

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