medicines

Trying to cross through a flooded section of road in South Sudan. {Photo credit: E. Polich/MSH.}Photo credit: E. Polich/MSH.

“We’re going to try to drive through that?”

After spending nearly two years working in South Sudan, I was on my way with two colleagues to one final meeting. The USAID-funded second phase of the Sudan Health Transformation Project (SHTP II), led by Management Sciences for Health (MSH), ended activities on July 31, 2012, and three of us needed to travel 360 kilometers (220 miles) to a results dissemination meeting. A flight booking mishap meant we had no choice but to drive --- during rainy season.

With a key bridge washed out.

And it rained --- down poured --- for over an hour the morning we left.

After passing several toppled trucks, overtaking pickups irrevocably mired in mud, and crossing through a river, we came across the point where I uttered the above quote (“We’re going to try to drive through that?”).

K4Health Knowledge Management/Health Systems Strengthening Conceptual Framework. {Image credit: MSH.}Image credit: MSH.

Cross-posted from the K4Health blog

No matter which health system building block you are trying to improve, you need specific data, information, and knowledge to inform your decision-making process—this is where good knowledge management comes in handy.

The Intersection of Knowledge Management and Health Systems Strengthening: Implications from the Malawi Knowledge for Health Demonstration Project” provides an interesting case study of the connection between improved knowledge management and health systems strengthening.

Women learning about family planning at Bikone Health Center II, Western Uganda. {Photo credit: MSH.}Photo credit: MSH.

This was my first trip to Africa working with a development agency. While I had visited the African continent for personal trips previously, arriving in this context felt different. I was immediately aware of the challenges Uganda is facing. From the crumbling road infrastructure and high incidence of traffic accidents in Kampala, to the mobile phone networks that are pretty reliable while internet access is often spotty, to the prevalence of street children --- I can for the first time see what my local colleagues are up against.

I felt a bit overwhelmed in the first few days. Is there any way we can address all these challenges? Can we make a difference?

Visiting communities and health centers in Kampala, Eastern and Western Uganda -- and seeing first-hand the impact MSH is having across the country -- quickly re-inspired me.

I had the pleasure of meeting a particularly passionate and committed Clinical Officer, Rodger Rwehandika, at Bikone Health Center II in Western Uganda. As a health center II, Bikone is an outpatient facility, but the staff of the facility can also conduct outreach programs to educate and serve the community.

Rodger and his two staff facilitate health education programs at the local schools and also host youth-friendly programs on using condoms.

Yvonise is a good-natured 40-year-old woman with an easy smile. She is mother to four children: two boys and two girls. Her youngest, a little girl, is six years old.

Today, Yvonise sits patiently at the pharmacy of Hôpital Immaculée Conception de Port-de-Paix (HIC Port-de-Paix) in Haiti, waiting for Miss Sevrine, her caregiver, to provide her with a month’s supply of life-saving medicine.

Yvonise is one of 2,200 patients enrolled in the HIV/AIDS program at HIC Port-de-Paix. She was infected years ago with the AIDS virus, but her family does not know. Keeping her secret is a constant burden.

“I tell my kids that I have an infection for which I am being treated,” she said. This is how she justifies her monthly trips to the hospital.

Yvonise knows first hand how important it is for her to keep her appointments. “Since I’ve been coming to the clinic and taking my medication, I’ve been feeling more energetic,” she said, grinning from ear to ear.

Cross-posted from the K4Health Blog.

As the mHealth Summit gets underway this week in the Washington D.C. area amid thousands of mHealth projects taking shape around the world, one particular mobile activity is saving lives by helping to ensure that the contents of medicines match their labels.

The Problem:

According to a  2010 World Health Organization Fact Sheet, it is difficult to estimate the percentage of counterfeit medicines in circulation—WHO cites estimates in industrialized countries at about 1%, and adds that “many African countries, and in parts of Asia, Latin America, and countries in transition, a much higher percentage” of the medicines on sale may be falsely labeled or counterfeit.

Over 500 people have gathered Antalya, Turkey, today for the 2011 International Conference for Improving Use of Medicines, also known as ICIUM 2011.

The Ministry of Public Health’s (MOPH) Pharmaceutical Enterprises operates 53 pharmacy stores located near government hospitals nationwide, managed by 118 pharmacists. With 1 million US dollars in capital, pharmaceuticals are purchased, stored, and then distributed to the Afghan people through these government-owned pharmacies.

Dr. Mirza Mohammed Ayoobi, the Deputy Director of Pharmaceutical Enterprises says, “Majority of our government-employed pharmacists have over 15 years of experience, but have not kept pace with the changing landscape of pharmacy practice. They need training on medication counseling, rational use, and good dispensing practices.”

In response, the Strengthening Pharmaceutical Systems Program-Afghanistan team organized and facilitated the first of a series of training programs to upgrade the pharmacist’s knowledge and skills on dispensing and rational use of medicines.

After a training program, MSH interviewed Mr. Mohammad Hasham, a pharmacist in Khairkhana, about the importance and value of this training course.

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