A new programme aimed at offering advice to pharmacy customers on public health issues is being launched by the Public Health Agency (PHA), the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) and Community Pharmacy NI (CPNI).
The ‘Living Well’ service will commence on 1 June and will provide information and advice on key public health issues. Community pharmacists and staff in over 500 pharmacies in Northern Ireland will proactively deliver the programme.
There are two elements to Living Well. Firstly, opportunistic interventions to help reduce risk factors which cause illness in Northern Ireland. Issues covered will include high blood pressure, tobacco use, harmful misuse of alcohol, unhealthy diet, sexual health and substance misuse.
Secondly, there will be targeted campaigns within pharmacies over the coming year focusing on care in the sun, obesity prevention, Stay Well This Winter, antimicrobial resistance and mental health awareness.
Dr Adrian Mairs, Acting Director of Public Health at the PHA, said: “Community pharmacies are embedded in local communities, with nearly a third located in disadvantaged areas. “It is estimated that around one in ten of us visit community pharmacies every day. We want to increase patient and public knowledge and understanding of key lifestyle and public health issues so people are empowered to take actions which will improve their health, and community pharmacies are ideally placed to enable this to happen at the heart of the community. This exciting initiative enables us to engage directly with people in their own communities, enabling them to make positive choices about their health and wellbeing.”
Joe Brogan, Assistant Director of Integrated Care and Head of Pharmacy and Medicines Management at the HSCB, said: “It is recognised that community pharmacies are well placed to provide a focal point for the provision of health advice, information and services to help people live longer, healthier lives. “Community pharmacies are often open when other healthcare providers are unavailable and they offer convenient access to a trained healthcare professional without an appointment. Studies show that people interact with community pharmacists at an average of 12 to 15 times each year, often using the same pharmacy each time.”
Gerard Greene, Chief Executive of Community Pharmacy NI, said: “Community pharmacy is the first and most frequent point of contact with the health service for many and therefore offers the ideal environment, close to home, to help improve population health through initiatives such as the Living Well service. “We know that the public trust and highly value their relationship with their local community pharmacist. This, combined with ease of access, enables everyday conversations to include key public health messages, helping people to make more informed decisions about their own health and wellbeing, as well as that of their family members.”
The Living Well service supports the Making Live Better strategy by enabling people to make healthier choices.