Health education through religion

THE irrational use of medicines is a worldwide catastrophe. Although the World Health Organisation has raised substantial concerns about this, strict measures to prevent the irrational use of medicines are poorly regulated in developing nations. In medical literature, various interventions are recommended to promote quality use of medicines. However, such interventions require sufficient resources and professionals with medicine-related expertise, who can monitor medicine use, report irrational usage and provide education to the public. Nevertheless, such facilities are absent in the majority of the healthcare organisations of the developing world. Therefore, it is difficult to develop and implement interventions to promote quality use of medicines in developing countries because of poor infrastructure and lack of resources. The question is no longer whether to act, but how. We propose adopting a novel MTC (mosque, temple and church) approach to embark on issues relating to the irrational use of medicines. Religion plays an important role in day-to-day activities and decision-making processes, whereby it regulates and influences in determining health-related beliefs and behaviours. For that reason, we strongly call for the utilisation of religious bodies, officials and leaders as a potential source of health educators. Religious bodies in developing countries have the required infrastructure, and, most importantly, the “influence” over people that can be used to promote quality use of medicines. Such platforms are ideal for health education, as services and sermons can be utilised to educate and inform people about the hazards of irrational medicine use. However, for the practical applicability of the MTC approach, support from the respective healthcare authorities to educate the religious institutes is essential. This can be achieved by using a cascade-training technique. Master trainers selected and appointed by relevant healthcare authorities to educate targeted persons and institutes about knowledge, activities and skills related to quality use of medicines is a valuable option. Once each trained group has its capacity raised to the satisfactory level, it can be used to educate another group of trainees. This tedious training and message delivery process requires monitoring of healthcare professionals and a strong commitment by healthcare authorities. However, once ensured by the healthcare professional, the message transferred through an influential religious entity of the society will promote quality use of medicines directly at the community level, without financial and communal constraints. PROF DR MOHAMED AZMI HASSALI AND DR FAHAD SALEEM, School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang

Source: New Strait Times