FOOD & PHARMACY
Like many of you, the community I serve is small, rural, and poor. That has become the population most common to Independent Community Pharmacy. These folks, our folks, are more likely to have significant challenges accessing healthcare, understanding the healthcare system and suffer from multiple challenges related to Social Determinants of Health (SDOH). The challenges of working within, and for, this community are many. When a patient comes to the pharmacy (or contacts the pharmacy remotely in the age of COVID-19) we need to assess more than their need for medicine. We need to look at transportation, finances, health literacy, and any other SDOH that interferes with their care. If we don’t, our patients get sicker and their cost to the healthcare system goes up. Dramatically.
My pharmacies are located in the poorest area of Missouri. One problem we see is food insecurity. COVID-19 has made this worse. If you think about that, it’s scary. Some of the patients you see are hungry. Not something we are used to thinking about in this country. It is not too unusual to see children in our area without enough food, maybe none, in their home.
When a person is hungry, they are much less likely to take care of their health. Community Pharmacists are problem solvers. We solve problems that stand between our patients and their healthcare.
During the COVID Pandemic my staff interviewed 139 of our patients to see if they were having trouble accessing food. Some of those folks didn’t want to talk to us about it, some were embarrassed to talk to us, some were grateful we asked. We referred several families to food sources, either local food banks or Meals on Wheels. Did we cure the problem? No. Did we make a dent in our area’s food insecurity problem? No. Did we make a difference in the lives of the people we referred to food sources? Yes, we did. We took it one patient at a time.
Most of the problem solvers writing articles in publications today talk about public health. Food insecurity as a public health issue, hypertension or diabetes as a public health issue. It’s really hard to think about food insecurity as a public health issue when you have a hungry child standing across from you.
As Pharmacy Providers we solve these problems one patient at a time, eyeball to eyeball with the patient. And we do it all the time, every day, different problems, each patient. That’s how we make an impact. That’s what no one else can do. That’s what no one else wants to do. Keep doing what you do, solving one problem for one patient, making an impact.
Thanks for being an Independent Community Practice Pharmacist!
Richard Logan, Jr. PharmD
Richard Logan, Jr. PharmD, community pharmacist, community pharmacy advocate, and ESPhA founding member