Investing in People: The Ethiopian Pharmaceutical Association
First established in 1974, the Ethiopian Pharmaceutical Association (EPA) has evolved to become one of the strongest and most exemplary professional associations in Ethiopia. Held up as a model, the EPA is the country’s first professional association to develop continuing professional development guidelines that are used nationwide. Recognizing the EPA’s professional capacity to lead the pharmaceutical sector, Ethiopia’s Ministry of Health has actively engaged the association in formulating the country’s health policy.
With the support of the US Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Systems for Improved Access to Pharmaceuticals and Services (SIAPS), the EPA has transformed itself from a struggling professional association with limited capacity, staffing, and resources into a recognized leader of Ethiopia’s pharmaceutical sector.
Forging a Partnership
USAID/SIAPS understood early on that only a strong and vibrant professional pharmaceutical association could take ownership and sustain the investments being made in Ethiopia’s pharmaceutical sector. To build the EPA, SIAPS, beginning with its predecessor project, Strengthening Pharmaceutical Systems (SPS), focused on investing in people—strengthening the human resources capacity of its officers and members.
SPS first began working with the EPA to build its organizational and operational capacity from the bottom up; two experts were seconded to work collaboratively with the EPA staff. From the beginning, SPS and the EPA developed memoranda of understanding (MOUs) and joint work plans to ensure mutual understanding of roles and responsibilities as well as expectations. SPS provided basic office furniture and equipment to support EPA’s routine office activities and trainings. Since much of EPA’s training efforts were outside the capital city, SPS donated a vehicle to facilitate EPA’s work in the different regions of the country.
The EPA Today: Building a Professional Pharmaceutical Workforce
SIAPS continues to support the EPA in its leadership role, particularly in terms of training. SIAPS partnered with the Ethiopian Druggist Association to provide a special training program on the management and rational use of anti-malarial drugs to mid-level pharmacy staff. Working with SIAPS, the PFSA, and the Food, Medicine, and Health Care Administration and Control Authority of Ethiopia (FMHACA), the EPA is working to create 20 model community pharmacies throughout Addis Ababa in a pilot project.
The EPA was the first professional association in Ethiopia to develop continuing professional development (CPD) guidelines that are used as a model nationwide. As a leader in the process of developing guidelines, the EPA was influential in revising and harmonizing the pharmacy training curriculum used by private and public sector institutions. Another first was EPA’s role in producing a comprehensive training manual on managing medical equipment, supplies, and reagents. EPA now trains pharmacists nationwide at hospitals and teaching institutions in partnership with the Pharmaceuticals Fund and Supply Agency (PFSA), which is responsible for the country’s pharmaceutical procurement and distribution
The Result: Ownership, Leadership, and Sustainability
SIAPS’s approach to investing in people and strengthening human resources capacity promotes ownership, leadership, and sustainability.
Recognizing EPA’s professional capacity to lead, Ethiopia’s Ministry of Health has actively engaged the association in formulating health policy. The Professional Code of Ethics developed by the EPA is considered a model by the Ministry of Health and is distributed to professional associations throughout the country.
The EPA is continuing to build its institutional capacity to strengthen Ethiopia’s pharmaceutical services to ensure better health outcomes for the Ethiopian people.