Community Pharmacies to offer advice on maintaining a healthy weight

With nearly two-thirds of adults being overweight or obese, over the coming months more than 500 community pharmacies across Northern Ireland will be encouraging patients and customers to think about their weight and raising awareness of healthy eating and physical activity to improve their health.

This is part of the new Living Well service which offers advice to pharmacy visitors on public health issues. It is a partnership between the Public Health Agency (PHA), the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) and Community Pharmacy NI (CPNI).
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 diets, sexual health and substance misuse.
Secondly, there will be targeted campaigns within pharmacies over the coming year. ‘Choose to Live Better’ is the second of five public health campaigns in 2019/2020 and will run throughout August and September.

The Northern Ireland Health Survey shows the proportion of overweight and obese adults was 64% in 2017/18 (27% obese; 37% overweight).
Caroline Bloomfield, the PHA’s Lead on Obesity, said: “In recent years the prevalence of overweight and obesity has risen dramatically and it is now the norm, rather than the exception, to be overweight in Northern Ireland. 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 the importance of a healthy weight, heighten awareness of the health impacts of being overweight or obese, and highlight how simple lifestyle changes such as eating a healthy diet and moving more can make a big difference. Delivering these messages through pharmacies is a great way of reaching people.”

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 a year, often using the same pharmacy each time.”

Eoghan O’Brien, community pharmacist at Bannside Pharmacy in Portglenone said: “Overweight and obesity is something that impacts on the health of many people in Northern Ireland.  This is something community pharmacists across Northern Ireland can advise people on through the Choose to Live Better campaign. We can encourage people to think about their own weight, raise awareness of the health impacts of being overweight or obese and also help to make them aware that lifestyle changes, even small ones such as reducing portion sizes, can make a difference to their weight.”

The Living Well service supports the Making Life Better public health strategy by enabling people to make healthier choices.
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