The potential role of private pharmacies in maternal iron supplementation in rural Tanzania

Sera Young*, Said Mohammed Ali, Sarah Beckham

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background. The reduction of maternal anemia is an agreed public health goal but one that has been very difficult to achieve. On Pemba Island, Tanzania, more than 90% of pregnant women are anemic, despite government efforts to identify and treat anemia during antenatal clinic visits. Objective. To investigate the potential of private pharmacies to be accessed for iron supplements for maternal anemia. Methods. We compared and contrasted the care given at private pharmacies and public clinics in terms of six characteristics: accuracy, affordability, availability, geographic accessibility, accommodation, and acceptability. We used data from in-depth interviews, surrogate customer encounters, governmental medicine record reviews, and participant observation. Results. The accuracy of health care workers' advice about the treatment of anemia at private pharmacies and government clinics was similar. Supplements purchased at pharmacies were sometimes cheaper than the free supplements from the government, when the costs of transportation and time spent at the clinic were considered. Supplements at private pharmacies were always available, whereas the supply at government clinics was erratic. Private pharmacies were physically closer, socially less distant, and more accommodating than government clinics. Both clinics and private pharmacies were socially acceptable to pregnant women, although government clinics were typically not attended until later in pregnancy. Conclusions. The private sector probably has untapped potential for the reduction of maternal anemia in settings in which public health services fall short. Private pharmacies can contribute to the reduction of maternal anemia on Pemba Island and beyond.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16-23
Number of pages8
JournalFood and Nutrition Bulletin
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2009


  • Anemia
  • Developing countries
  • Iron
  • Pharmacies
  • Pregnancy
  • Private sector
  • Supplementation
  • Tanzania
  • Zanzibar

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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