Dr. Rabia Tahir, Pharm.D is a pharmacist and professor at Touro College of Pharmacy. Here she talks about the new roles that pharmacists are taking on-and that Touro promotes. She says that pharmacists should provide many services to their patients besides just handing out pills.
Q: What problems do Harlem residents face when going into pharmacies?
A: I think there's a lack of easily accessible and understandable health information in pharmacies, especially about diseases that affect people in this neighborhood. We're talking about chronic diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, asthma, all of that. In general, pharmacists are aware and educated of the issues, but they need to be prepared to educate patients about these diseases.
Q: What can pharmacists do to reduce these problems?
A: Becoming aware of issues that affect the community where the pharmacist is practicing is very important. I think it would really make a difference if pharmacists speak up for this community and advocate for health and wellbeing in Harlem by educating community members about health issues that affect them and how they can avoid or treat them. Pharmacists are trained about many chronic diseases and are more accessible than other health care providers because you don't need an appointment to see them at a local pharmacy. I think pharmacists need to educate the community about some of the health issues here like hypertension and obesity. We need to do more than just dispense/give out medicine. Pharmacists need to talk and counsel patients and have one-day clinics or support groups for them. The pharmacists can hold the clinics and support groups at the checks, BMI measurements, smoking cessation, asthma education, and peak flow meter check free of charge. These are usually held in a group and then individuals can be assessed privately. Many newer pharmacies have separate areas for private assessments. Providing health information definitely is the key. If a patient is taking medicine for a health problem, such as diabetes, the pharmacist should talk to them about diet and exercise and help them learn how they can improve their health overall.