South African Family Practice

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The Phelophepa Health Care Train: a pharmacoepidemiological overview of the Western Cape in 2009

I Truter


Background: The Phelophepa Health Care Train is the only primary healthcare train in the world. Phelophepa is an innovative initiative that attempts to make a positive difference to primary healthcare in rural South Africa. The primary aim of this study was to determine the epidemiological and prescribing statistics for Phelophepa during the period that the train was stationed in the Western Cape in 2009.
Methods: Phelophepa visited seven stations during the eight weeks that it was stationed in the Western Cape (between 6 April and 5 June 2009). Data were collected by workers and students on the train.
Results: A total of 4 026 prescriptions were dispensed by the pharmacy on Phelophepa during the eight weeks. The average number of items per prescription was 3.51. The average cost per prescription was R65,48 (average cost of R18,64 per item). Patients only paid R5,00 per prescription. There was an increase in the number of pulmonary diseases/infections as well as ophthalmic conditions (especially dry eyes). Common problems experienced during the outreach to schools were ear infections and chest infections. Common conditions identified in Caledon, for example, were musculoskeletal problems, genitourinary conditions, fungal infections and eye disorders. Medication is prescribed mainly by nurses and includes those listed in the Primary Healthcare Essential Drug List.
Conclusions: The statistics compiled by Phelophepa are a useful source of pharmacoepidemiological data about rural South Africa. It is recommended that more studies be conducted to detect especially epidemiological differences between regions visited, as well as changes over time.

Keywords: Phelophepa; primary healthcare; epidemiology; Western Cape; prescriptions

AJOL African Journals Online