Pharmacists must be allowed to do more to manage respiratory conditions in communities if the urgent need to address the harmful effects of air pollution on health is to be met, the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) said recently. The expansion of pharmacists’ roles in mitigating the health threats of air pollution is among several actions described in a call to action issued by the FIP, marking the United Nations International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies, which took place on 7 September.

The call to action is based on priorities identified by a round-table of experts organised by FIP in collaboration with The Clean Breathing Institute (TCBI) earlier this year. “Air pollution is one of the top 10 threats to global health, according to the World Health Organisation, with harmful effects manifesting in cancer, stroke, allergies, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma, among other serious conditions.

FIP believes that pharmacists, at the hearts of communities and uniquely positioned to triage and manage people with respiratory symptoms and diseases, have the potential to make a huge impact on health outcomes,” said FIP CEO Dr Catherine Duggan. 

The FIP call to action recommends pharmacy services that identify and reduce risk factors, such as smoking cessation, education on nasal hygiene, and optimisation of inhaler technique for patients with COPD or asthma, as well as services that screen for vaccine hesitancy and social vulnerability. 

However, the Federation said it recognises that policies are needed in order to increase public awareness of air pollution and pharmacists’ related roles, and to scale-up pharmacy education in this field. Detailed measures are described in the call to action.

“Recent findings of a survey by FIP and TCBI, with responses from 62 countries, support a need for an expanded role for pharmacists in air pollution and respiratory health, and FIP has called for incentives to encourage these services to become mainstream practise,” Dr Duggan said. 

She added: “In this call to action, FIP has made clear its commitment to advocating air pollution reduction as a health measure and to supporting pharmacists and their national organisations to provide better respiratory primary healthcare services. Our profession must be mobilised to act on this important issue.”