Pharmacists in proactive respiratory wellness

Only 5% of pharmacists currently proactively discuss the impact of air pollution on their patients’ respiratory health, a new report reveals

A wider role for community pharmacists in reducing the negative impacts of air pollution on health is advocated in a new report published by the International Pharmaceutical Federation.

“According to the World Health Organization, air pollution is the greatest environmental risk to health, with nine out of 10 people breathing polluted air every day,” said Gonçalo Sousa Pinto, FIP lead for practice development and transformation and co-author of the report.

“There is, therefore, a clear need for pharmacists not only to respond to and manage respiratory illnesses and symptoms, but also to support proactive respiratory wellness,” he said.

The report, “Mitigating the impact of air pollution on health: The role of community pharmacists”, presents the findings of an international survey on the awareness and roles of community pharmacists related to air pollution and respiratory health.

Responses were received from 62 countries and territories.

Among the findings are that currently, pharmacists’ most commonly reported roles in respiratory care include supporting the use of non-prescription medicines (i.e., self care, with the common cold ranking as the most commonly consulted-on condition) and promoting adherence to medication (both 84%).

However, only 5% of pharmacists generally and proactively discuss and manage the impacts of air pollution on respiratory health.

Advice on protection against pollen was cited as the most common preventive counselling.

Advice on protection from both indoor and outdoor pollutants (e.g., industrial or vehicle emissions) is provided by pharmacists in less than half of the respondent countries and territories, with over one-fifth of pharmacists not yet providing any type of advice in this area. N

evertheless, 92% of respondents said that pharmacists want to evolve their role as trusted advisors and provide value in the area of respiratory care and air pollution.

The survey also defined a number of barriers that must be overcome if the profession is to be able to practise to its full potential in this area, lack of training being the first.

For example, in 50% of responding countries and territories, pharmacists were not entirely aware of the link between air pollution and the immune response to viral infections. The lack of an appropriate remuneration model ranked second top as a barrier, followed by legal restrictions on performing screening and triage (17%).

The report concludes that community pharmacies are significantly underutilised in the screening of respiratory disorders in 95% of responding countries and territories. Gaps in the availability of practice guidelines and standards were also revealed.

“This calls for professional organisations, including FIP, to develop such guidance to support this much-needed transformation of community pharmacy practice,” Mr Sousa Pinto said.

“There is an urgent need to address the direct threat that air pollution poses to the health of individuals and communities.

“The intelligence from this survey may inform policymaking, advocacy efforts and new service development by pharmacist organisations around the world.”

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