The role of community pharmacists in increasing access and use of self-care interventions for sexual and reproductive health in the Eastern Mediterranean Region: examples from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Somalia
Health Res Policy Syst
BACKGROUND: Self-care interventions offer a solution to support the achievement of three goals of the World Health Organization (WHO): to improve universal health coverage, reach people in humanitarian situations, and improve health and well-being. In light of implementing WHO consolidated guidelines on self-care interventions to strengthen sexual and reproductive health (SRH) in the Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMR), especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, pharmacists from four different EMR countries discussed the current SRH situation, inequality gaps, barriers to SRH service access and the pharmacist's crucial role as a first-line responder to patients before, during and after COVID-19. CASE PRESENTATION: Self-care interventions for SRH allow health care providers to serve a greater number of patients, improve progress toward universal health coverage, and reach people in humanitarian crises. In fact, these interventions can be significantly enhanced by utilizing community pharmacists as first-line health care providers. This review highlights the important role of community pharmacists in promoting self-care interventions and empowering individuals, families and communities. As a result, well-informed individuals will be authoritative in their health decisions. Exploring self-care interventions in the EMR was done through reviewing selected SRH services delivery through community pharmacists before and during the COVID-19 pandemic in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Somalia. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, community pharmacists were found to be excluded from both governmental and nongovernmental SRH programmes. During the pandemic, community pharmacists managed to support patients with self-care interventions, whether voluntarily or through their pharmacy associations. This highlights the need for the health care decision-makers to involve and support community pharmacists in influencing policies and promoting self-care interventions. CONCLUSION: Self-care interventions can increase individuals' choice and autonomy over SRH. Supporting community pharmacists will definitely strengthen SRH in the EMR and may help make the health system more efficient and more targeted.