Health and Wellness in Pharmacies

Rina Shah

On March 1, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) hosted a Health and Wellness Stakeholder Forum (Forum) in Washington, DC, exploring how pharmacies can work collaboratively across the industry to reduce diet-related diseases. The day-long forum brought together pharmacy leaders, industry partners, think tanks, and member-based organizations to discuss creative ways to progress NACDS commitments made at the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health.  The National Governors Association (NGA) was among the 26 organizations in attendance.  

The day began with remarks from Rina Shah, Group Vice President of Pharmacy of the Future & Healthcare Segments for Walgreens, Judy Monroe, President and CEO of CDC Foundation, and Cat Oakar, Special Assistant to the President for Public Health and Disparities. These opening remarks highlighted how pharmacies can be an important part of disease prevention and disease intervention, as 90% of Americans live within five miles of a pharmacy and pharmacies are visited ten times more than other healthcare settings.

 Following this level setting, attendees heard five case studies from the American Cancer Society, Feeding Change for the Milken Institute, Health Care Transformation at Duke University’s Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy, Geisinger and Thrifty White Pharmacy. Each case study highlighted a unique health and wellness initiative and energized participants for the discussions that followed.

Case Study Presenters

The next part of the Forum consisted of facilitated table discussions among attendees to foster networking and collaboration across organizations and sectors. Participants shared an overview of their scope of work, their successes, challenges and what they felt were next steps to accelerate progress on the White House Strategy goals to reduce diet-related diseases.  

Participants emphasized the importance of a whole person approach during pharmacy visits to make them more personal and meaningful. Patients may see many different physicians, but typically keep the same pharmacy, so it is essential that these interactions are leveraged as key opportunities to improve health. At monthly pharmacy visits, pharmacists can check on medication use and adherence, monitor the patient’s disease states, provide recommendations to promote management and prevention of diseases, and develop a well-rounded plan focused on enhancing overall health, including screening for additional care and programs that may benefit the individual.

For example, one pharmacy representative noted their “appointment-based model,” which synchronizes a patient’s chronic medication refills so they come due on a single day each month. This allows pharmacists to help patients adhere to their medication schedules, mitigates transportation barriers, and promotes monthly opportunities for pharmacist interventions that improve health.   

During the table discussion, participants noted challenges preventing pharmacies from addressing diet-related diseases. Some of these challenges include scope of practice laws for pharmacists which limit the types of care they can provide, a shortage of pharmacy technicians, and the end of pandemic-era SNAP benefits that may reduce an individual’s access to healthy foods. Top of mind especially for pharmacies and public health groups is the eventual end of the pandemic PREP Act flexibilities for pharmacy personnel that currently allow them to provide a broader array of services and the importance of working with states to modernize state laws and regulations to align with what’s been proven safe and effective over the last three years to maintain public access to needed care. The discussion also highlighted opportunities for pharmacies to enhance the patient’s healthcare experience, such as through bidirectional information sharing between physicians, pharmacists and the rest of the healthcare ecosystem, growing pharmacy partnerships with other health professionals such as dietitians, and food prescription programs that include home delivery.

Overall, the Forum highlighted opportunities pharmacies have to further improve public health and emphasized opportunities for organizations to partner and collaborate with pharmacies to advance mutual health goals for the communities they serve. Although the Forum focused on diet-related diseases, many of the examples presented and policy solutions discussed have the potential to improve all aspects of a person’s health.  

This article was developed by Eden Moore and Taylor Shelton, CDC Public Health Associates. For more information on Governors’ public health efforts please contact Photos courtesy of NACDS.