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Investment in the pharmaceutical workforce is needed if we are to have universal health coverage, Dr Carmen Peña, President of the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP), said today at the opening of the 77th World Congress of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences in Seoul, Republic of Korea. One of the most important ways of achieving universal health coverage is through service provision but this, in turn, requires a sufficient pharmaceutical workforce, she explained.
Dr Peña said that such investment would be “wise” because “health care is a key economic sector”. Moreover, “a working and productive population is the base of a healthy population”, she added. “For sure the pharmaceutical sector can generate decent, inclusive and sustainable jobs that will lead to better social protection, equality, human rights and the economic empowerment of women and youth, but investment in education and research is needed. . . . There can be no pharmaceutical workforce without education and research,” she said. “Within this framework, we can foster a renewed workforce of knowledgeable, competent and skilled pharmacists, pharmaceutical scientists and educators in sufficient number to promote our professional development through the expansion of pharmaceutical services, giving people what they expect and what they need.”
Dr Peña drew attention to the investment FIP has already made in the pharmaceutical workforce, including supporting the development of solid education systems for pharmacists and raising the visibility of pharmacists, pharmaceutical scientists and educators in global health policies. She highlighted, for example, the recent decision of the United Nations to include pharmacist numbers as an indicator of the density of health care professionals, when previously only doctors, nurses and midwives had been counted. This, she said, was thanks to FIP’s work with the World Health Organization.
In terms of service provision, the second of three focus areas in Dr Peña’s “Two times two” plan for pharmacy, which she described at the start of her presidency, she said that pharmaceutical services are an intrinsic part of health services, and that new services are the response to the new needs of a new society. She described these services in five fields: public health, clinical pharmacy, research, education and new technologies. In particular, she explained how research serves the vision of universal health coverage: “As with new medicines, where we know the importance of research in gathering evidence, we must also apply this concept to pharmaceutical services to be able to understand the importance of demonstrating, from a clinical perspective, their effectiveness for the patient and, from an economic perspective, their efficiency for our systems.”
Dr Peña also called new technologies an “engine of change”, enabling information among health professionals and empowering patients. This new set of services — digital services — will serve the other four fields, helping us face, among other goals, the question of chronic illnesses and the challenge of universal health coverage, she predicted.