A wider role for community pharmacists in reducing the negative impacts of air pollution on health is advocated in a new report published recently the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP).

“According to the World Health Organisation, 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 Mr 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 (ie, self-care, with the common cold ranking as the most commonly consulted-on condition), and promoting adherence to medication (both 84 per cent). However, only 5 per cent 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 (ie, industrial or vehicle emissions) 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 per cent 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. For example, in 50 per cent of responding countries and territories, pharmacists were not entirely aware of  the link between air pollution and the immune response to viral infections. The lack of an appropriate remuneration model ranked second-top as a barrier, followed by legal restrictions on performing screening and triage (17 per cent). Indeed, the report concludes that community pharmacies are significantly underutilised in the screening of respiratory disorders in 95 per cent of responding countries and territories. Gaps in the availability of practice guidelines and standards were also revealed. “This calls for professional organisations, including FIP, to develop such guidance to support this much-needed transformation of community pharmacy practice,” Mr Sousa Pinto said.

He added: “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 policy-making, advocacy efforts and new service development by pharmacist organisations around the world.”

Meanwhile, The One FIP Data and Intelligence Commission was launched recently during the FIP Virtual 2020 conference. The commission will provide strategic advice on the development of the Global Pharmaceutical Observatory (GPO).The FIP GPO builds on FIP’s foundational history of collating and using pharmacy-related data, and will be a global data hub that can be used to inform advocacy work for FIP members and partners. It will aid policy development, decision-making, workforce intelligence, and the advancement of pharmaceutical practice, health and life-sciences, education and skills training.

Incorporating the FIP Development Goals launched recently, the FIP GPO will deliver an expansive set of validated information to drive evidence-based analysis of past, current and future trends. Members of the commission, chaired by Prof Robert Sindelar, University of British Columbia, Canada, will provide assurance and guidance on achieving the FIP GPO vision and mission, which were presented at FIP Virtual 2020. They will also validate the integration of GPO activities across FIP and with stakeholders, and advocate for the FIP GPO. Members of the commission will be drawn from across FIP’s boards, sections, regions and member organisations, and a nomination process will be circulated in due course.

Prof Sindelar said: “Data volumes will continue to increase and experts agree that the amount of generated data will be growing exponentially every day into the future. The key is not just collecting data and individual observations, but turning that data into intelligence that empowers FIP and its stakeholders to form a predictive picture that enables better decision-making for pharmacy and the pharmaceutical sciences.”