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Emerging role and professional service for pharmacy in air pollution highlighted in new report

A wider role for community pharmacists in reducing the negative impacts of air pollution on health is advocated in a new report published by FIP today. “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. 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,” said Gonçalo Sousa Pinto, FIP lead for practice development and transformation and co-author of the report.

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) 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 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.

Nevertheless, 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.

In 2019, the World Health Organization listed air pollution and climate change as one of the top 10 threats to global health. “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,” Mr Sousa Pinto said.