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Review Article

Factors affecting learning and teaching for medicines supply management training in Pacific Island Countries - a realist review

Submitted: 20 August 2012
Revised: 27 February 2013
Accepted: 1 March 2013
Published: 6 June 2013

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Author(s) : Brown AN, Ward-Panckhurst L, Cooper G.

Andrew Brown

Citation: Brown AN, Ward-Panckhurst L, Cooper G.  Factors affecting learning and teaching for medicines supply management training in Pacific Island Countries - a realist review. Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2013; 13: 2327. Available: (Accessed 17 October 2017)


Introduction:  Limited human resources are a major impediment to achieving the UN health-related Millennium Development Goals in a number of Pacific Island Countries (PICs). Lack of education capacity to support competency development in medicine supply management is one of the main issues affecting workforce development in this region, which is characterised by disparate service delivery due to the range of environments in which supply occurs (ie urban, rural and remote), geographical challenges and cultural practices associated with teaching and learning. The supply of medicines, and an adequate pharmacy workforce with appropriate competencies is crucial to ensuring a well-functioning pharmaceutical system. In this region approximately 80% of patients access healthcare in rural areas without a pharmacist, thus local health personnel must be competent in pharmaceutical management relevant to the local context and culture. A new approach involves a partnership between the UN Population Fund Suva Sub-Regional Office, University of Canberra, Ministry of Health officials and the heath personnel within identified PICs, starting with the need to understand local culture and its impact on learning and teaching, and the mapping of competency requirements and an understanding of currently available information and materials. This information will be used to develop and trial new pedagogical approaches to training health personnel involved in essential medicines supply management, to improve medicines availability for patients in their own environment. The focus of this review was to determine what cultural and learning factors need to be considered when developing a curriculum for South Pacific pharmaceutical health personnel who work across a range of practice environments.
Methods:  A ‘realist methodology’ consisting of a systematic investigation of the published literature and a targeted review of the ‘grey’ literature was used. All relevant literature was retrieved and coded manually using broad thematic analysis. 
Results:  The combined bibliographic and ‘grey’ literature search strategy resulted in the inclusion of 17 full text articles, 44 documents and 10 books. The five themes identified as key to optimising the cultural and learning approaches for the study population included recognition of: (1) past regional experiences of health related training; (2) the impact of South Pacific culture on learning styles; (3) the impact of external influences on curriculum; (4) the challenges of open and distance education in the Pacific; and (5) a distinct South Pacific student learning approach.
Conclusions:  The results of this ‘realist methodology’ review provide insights into learning approaches and cultural influences on student learning within PICs. The themes generated will be used to develop a set of principles to inform educators and health personnel involved in pharmaceutical training within PICs.

Key words: culture, education, learning approaches, medicines supply management, Pacific Island countries, pharmacy, realist methodology.

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