On clinical pharmacy sustainable development goals
2000 was an exciting year in contemporary history. It was that year during which many felt a certain sense of accomplishment in witnessing a transition not from one decade or century to another, but indeed from one millennium to another.
Instructively, the new magical year of 2000 also witnessed the coming together of some 189 countries across the world to assess the present and make projections for a better future for mankind. The excitement of the new millennium notwithstanding, the outlook of the world at the time was not pretty. The world was plagued with natural disasters such as famines and drought and other problems such as poverty and disease. While some of the problems were of course, inevitable, it was clear that their impact could be less devastating on humankind. The world had the capacity to produce enough food to ensure that no-one was left hungry but somehow, severe hunger pervaded much of the world.
It was the search for a reversal of these fortunes that led leaders of these 189 countries to conceive and collectively adopt a set of eight goals that they believed if pursued aggressively on a global scale, would among others, help considerably rid the world of hunger and poverty by 2015. Those goals came to be known as the Millennium Development Goals.
The MDGs may not have met their ambitious targets by 2015. They were, however, very successful in redressing to a considerable extent, the problems they sought to combat. There are reports that the MDGs may have succeeded in reducing extreme poverty by up to half. MDGs also succeeded in impacting global awareness on the essence of enrolling children in schools and globally by 2015, more children were in school than at any previous period in history, while infant and child mortality had also reduced considerably.
The successes of the MDGs, though rather far from the ambitious targets set at the beginning of the millennium have spurred the world to adopt a new set of goals that build on these accomplishments. Known as the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, this new set of goals aims to among others, end hunger and poverty by 2030. Like the MDGs, the SDGs build on the premise that by working together on a pre-agreed mission, the world stands a better chance of meeting the aspirations of its citizens for peace, prosperity and progress.
A most pivotal among the Sustainable Development Goals, is good health and the promotion of wellbeing for all and at all ages.
It would appear that by some fortuitous coincidence of sorts, Pharmacy, that profession whose role has traditionally been to manufacture and provide medicines, has sequel to an evolution in scope over the years, attuned itself to keying more seamlessly into the SDGs.
Over the last six decades, for instance, the focus of pharmacy practice has gradually shifted. Whereas the focus used to be on the medicines that pharmacists manufacture and distribute, today, the focus has shifted to the patient, the clinical equivalent of what other professions refer to as customer or client. The profession would appear to have adopted the counsel of famed Harvard marketing professor, Theodore Levitt, who in his iconic 1960 article: “Marketing Myopia,” canvassed that an industry (replace that with profession) “is a customer-satisfying process, not a goods-producing process.” An industry, Levitt said, “begins with the customer (patient in this case) and his or her needs, not with a patent, a raw material, or a selling skill.”
Today, across most of the world, especially in developed economies, the patient has become the focal point of pharmaceutical practice. Increasingly, the pharmacist is taking direct responsibility for ensuring that only those medicines that are most appropriate for a particular condition; that are optimally cost-effective as well as safe and convenient for the patient, are taken.
The new trend in pharmacy practice speaks to the emphasis that the SDGs place on people, their health and general wellbeing. The new trend in pharmacy also speaks to the emphasis that the SDGs place on responsible consumption and production. Very importantly, the new trend is very much in line with the SDGs which emphasize partnerships and collaboration towards the attainment of the goals.
The new trend in pharmacy emphasizes collaboration and co-operation among health practitioners. At counter-points to the old practice that restricted the pharmacist to his laboratory where he worked in virtual isolation, he is now in a better position to contribute his knowledge of medicines to the clinical teams while also benefitting from a better and more rounded knowledge of diseases and their manifestations from his doctor colleagues. Ultimately, much of the knowledge which may have resided idly in his brain in the past is now regularly tested, refreshed and renewed, all for the benefit of the health and wellbeing of the patient.
It can be argued that the emerging trend of patient-focussed or Clinical Pharmacy will be increasingly pivotal at driving the global effort towards research and development towards new and better medicines for the various diseases that afflict mankind. We can safely posit that enriched knowledge garnered from partnerships whether in clinical teams or research teams can only further amplify progress in the search for solutions to that great enemy of mankind, disease.
The Sustainable Development Goals are, like the Millennium Development Goals before them, considerably wide-ranging and ambitious. The 17 goals include ending poverty and hunger, delivering good health and well being, providing quality education, achieving gender equality, providing clean water and sanitation as well as affordable and clean energy for the world’s peoples. They also include provision of decent work and driving sustained and inclusive economic growth, building resilient infrastructure as well as promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialisation as well as reduced inequalities within and among countries.
Judging from the accomplishments of the MDGs, we have every reason to hope that the SDGs will be even more successful especially at a time when the Internet has become increasingly pervasive and the world more interconnected than at any other time in human history. To do this, the essence of the SDGs must pervade every sector of life on our planet including the professions, businesses and communities. And as the example of pharmacy has shown, things can only get better for mankind, when centrality is accorded to people, their health and overall wellbeing.
Prof. Tayo is the general secretary of the Nigeria Academy of Pharmacy