Media Center

Education and outreach increasing community’s access to medicines in Brazil

February 14, 2013
Associates from a cross-section of Sandoz Brazil are participating in the “Friends of Health” project in Cambé, a low income community in Brazil’s southern region

This project is a Sandoz Brazil initiative that combines education, outreach, and special commercial conditions to increase the community’s access to high-quality medicines, enabling effective treatments for common ailments.

“Friends of Health” addresses several factors in the community: latent demand for good quality health care products and services; need for credit and cash availability to allow purchase; low awareness of current health issues and compliance; and lack of regular contact with physicians and pharmacists”, says Patricia Pecego, Head of Communications, Sandoz Brazil.

Cambé city lies about 550 kilometers west of Sao Paulo, in the province of Paraná. It has a population of roughly 98,000 in 34,000 households, with an average monthly per capita income of $163. Children age 15 and under make up 23% of the population, while people over 60 are 10%. Careful analysis of the demographics, health care needs, combined with the fact that our plant is located in Cambé with many of our associates living in this region, our  good relationship with the local community as well as the local government, led the Brazilian team to select Cambé as the location for “Friends of Health”.

The challenges in the city include shortcomings in basic infrastructure, such as clean water, clinics and hospitals; a low level of awareness about diseases and prevention; and a diet that features high-cholesterol foods compounded by a sedentary lifestyle. When people in Cambé do purchase medicines, their patterns of consumption are different from the Brazilian average, with higher consumption of anti-inflammatory products and antibiotics.  Also, this community depends on “Farmácia Popular” (a government program providing some basic medications at discount) for their medication need. The local medical infrastructure is inadequate to cater to the needs of the local community, in additional local pharmacies and physicians seldom receive visits from pharmaceutical company reps.

For each of these factors, the “Friends of Health” project takes a specific action. Access and inormation are key imperatives, so Sandoz Brazil has developed flyers, brochures and other informational materials, along with a network to distribute them to both patients and medical professionals. The project team has also partnered with drugstores to offer affordable lines of credit to low-income patients, who might not otherwise be able to pay for urgently needed medicines. These pharmacies display the “Friends of Health” logo and offer additional informational materials.

A special feature of this initiative is engagement with local government and training of ‘Community Agents’ to extend the outreach effort. Community Agents are part of the government health infrastructure and this engagement is an excellent example of the partnership between Sandoz and the local government. 

“All of these efforts increase general awareness of the importance of preventive health measures along with how to get a good diagnosis when illness strikes. The Community Agents support treatment compliance so that patients have good results, while the sales representatives from the region are communicating with local pharmacists and physicians and with the community at large”, says Karina Amaral, project leader, Friends of Health, Sandoz Brazil.

The efforts of the “Friends of Health” team are helping to make a deserving underserved community healthier.