By Ajiri Daniels & Henry Uche
In a bid to encourage family planning, child spacing and access to modern contraceptives as a way to avert unintended pregnancies and in most cases abortion, which undoubtedly may lead to death of some women, the Federal Government through the Reproductive Health Division of the Federal Ministry of Health, has signaled its commitment to improved Primary Health Care (PHC) access and to expand family planning by integrating Community Pharmacists, Patents & Proprietary Medicines Vendors (PPMVs).
The resolve was heralded at the IntegratE Project media roundtable organised by the Nigeria Health Watch in collaboration with Society for Family Health and key stakeholders in the health sector.
The media parley which beamed its light on the activities and outcomes from the 4-year IntegratE Project, also x-rayed the impact of the project to family planning service delivery in Nigeria.
Speaking during the project overview, the Project Director, Mr. Emeka Okafor explained that the project was a four-year initiative (2017-2021) funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and MSD for Mothers. He also said the project is implemented by a consortium of partners led by Society for Family Health and other stakeholders such as Marie Stopes International Organisation Nigeria, Population Council and PharmAccess.
“The project seeks to establish a regulatory system with the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) to ensure that community Pharmacists (CPs) and Patent & Proprietary Medicine Vendors (PPMVs) provide quality family planning services, comply with family planning regulations, and report service statistics to the Health Management Information System (HMIS),” he said.
Some of the key findings from the first phase of the project revealed that a total number of 209,363 women have access to Family Planning from CPs and PPMVs, yielding a remarkable achievement of 17, 871 unintended pregnancies averted. Relatedly, 94,109 persons were reported as new family planning clients while 62,051 were listed under the couple years of protection (CYP) parameters.
Highlighting the outcomes from the first phase of the project, Okafor noted that the IntegratE Project trained Community Pharmacists in two pilot states (Lagos and Kaduna) to provide family planning services and report same using the existing National Health Management information System.
“The project has successfully trained Community Pharmacists in Kaduna and Lagos with plans to scale up the family planning services to other States as well as layer on additional training in Primary Health Care services.”
In a remark, the Director/Head of Reproductive Health Division of the Federal Ministry of Health, Dr. Kayode Afolabi, commended the initiative and the project implementers for their intervention in improving Primary Health Care and family planning services in Nigeria.
“The project is an innovative one with a lot of promises and has since 2017 been piloting a tiered accreditation system, implemented by Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) to test a task-shifting model inclusive of CPs and PPMVs with a view to future scale-up.
“A revised task-sharing and task-shifting (TSTS) policy inclusive of health trained PPMVs and CPs has the potential to dramatically improve primary healthcare access to Nigerians, especially u deserved populations, expanding services and supplies through these retail channels in a way that ensures quality and sustainability.
Afolabi stressed that the PPMV Tiered accreditation system being piloted in collaboration with Reproductive Health Division of the FMoH, and the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria has a great potential to increase family planning uptake significantly, especially in rural and difficult-to-reach communities through the services of health trained PPMVs and the Community Pharmacists.
“The evidence from this project can inform government’s decision to revise policies that will facilitate the expansion of FP and other PHC services through these access cadres of health providers across the country.” he added.