International Paediatrician presents on Community Engaged Pharmacy

The Rhodes University Faculty of Pharmacy kick-started their 2016 Thursday seminar period project on the 18th of February with an international visitor, Dr. Marisha Bhandankar speaking on ‘Infant Health Issues in Developing Countries’.

Associated with a number of governmental-funded programmes, in India, focussed on infant health, and a Professor of Paediatrics at the Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College in KLE University, Belgaum; Dr. Bhandankar additionally has background training in neonatology – the new-born stage. Dr. Bhandankar stressed to a well-occupied Barratt 1 theatre that, “As a citizen of any country, not just as a pharmacist, we all need to help in bettering the health of the mother, infants and children for the health of the next generation.”

Infants in developing countries are most at risk, with a lack of care post-birth being a contributing factor for families, “Everybody related to health should join hands to let them know about these issues and motivate them.” Education for both communities and the individual health practitioner - emphasised to the future pharmacists present - is key to effectively breaking the cycle of poverty and infant mortality, “When we are talking about a country’s progress, we are not just looking at economic progress of countries. [Rather at] one of the very sensitive health indicators of a country’s progress, infant and child health. And in that, infant mortality – the death of children less than one year old – is considered to be a very sensitive indicator of where the country is heading to.” Of the 4.5 million infant deaths annually, Dr. Bhandankar comments that many are preventative, such as malaria or diarrhoea, and thus onus is to be placed upon health practitioners to educate not only the mother, but to share their knowledge with communities to encourage overall well-being. These are challenges which face pharmacy students considering the community health sector; to establish grass root movements and enter communities and actively participate with those at risk. She further mentions that clinical pharmacists within hospitals, working alongside doctors, need to ensure that there is the correct medication and attention being given – a facet she devotes teaching time to in India.

Considerable time was allocated towards a movement for which she has special praise – in line with international campaigns – namely breast feeding. Dr. Bhandankar praised the practice for the health benefits it holds for both mother and child, whilst alleviating financial pressures for families coming from a lower socio-economic background. “Most important when it comes to breast-feeding, is motivation”, for this Dr. Bhandankar suggests the creation of focus groups as a safe space for the sharing of experiences of a practice that is stigmatise, but if used exclusively can help to avoid nearly 60% of infant deaths.

Thanks was given by Prof. S. Srinivas of the Faculty of Pharmacy, whose husband, Dr. Srinivas Patnala is credited as a influencing factor for Dr. Bhandankars’ visit. Further thanks were given to Dr. Rajendra Bhandankar, a hip replacement surgeon who accompanied his wife; and also to Professor Pei Yu, Director of Pharmacy at the Jinan University, China, who had earlier in the week informally addressed second year Pharmacy students on happenings at her institution. Whilst an insight into the health measures taken in a fellow developing country, Dr. Bhandankars’ visit is a fantastic link for the Rhodes University Pharmacy Students Association’s (RUPSA) focus on community engagement, and to fourth year Pharmacy students interested in a health promotion programme as their year project, with a particular passion for infant and child health. The visit allowed an invaluable insight to all present, a clear indicator of feasible measures being taken to alleviate what may seem an unsurmountable issue.

Article by Christina Schild

Photo: Dr. Bhandankar, 4th year Pharmacy students with a particular interest in health promotion and child health, members of Rhodes University Pharmacy Students Association (RUPSA) and Prof. Srinivas.

Source:  Communications and Marketing

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