Strong relationships between pharmacies and state and local health departments can be mutually beneficial and build upon the inherent strengths of each sector, especially during public health emergencies. As healthcare professionals, pharmacists already play a critical role in the provision of health and wellness services, in chronic disease management, in health screenings, and in providing health education.  In recent years, pharmacists have become known as a “first line” resource for health because they are trained professionals with continual access to the public at numerous convenient locations. [2,3]
The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) strongly encourages local health departments to engage and coordinate with pharmacy partners for public health emergency preparedness and response. On July 8, the NACCHO Board approved a Statement of Policy, “Local Health Department and Pharmacy Partnerships for Enhancing Medication Dispensing during Emergencies,” which offers recommendations on collaborating with pharmacy partners.
Selected Policy Highlights:
- Leverage Existing Community Partnerships: local health departments should consider a diverse range of pharmacy partners, including chain, independent, and ethnic minority-owned pharmacies, state pharmacy associations, state boards of pharmacy, and schools of pharmacy. Local health departments should Identify any existing partnerships between public health and pharmacies at the state-level or in nearby jurisdictions, and if not, begin working with the state health department, state pharmacy association, and state board of pharmacy to cultivate new relationships. Visit our Pharmacy Partnership toolkit to learn how.
- Build Mutually Beneficial Partnerships: local health departments should work with their pharmacy partners to identify mutual capabilities and to establish roles and responsibilities in preparation for a public health emergency. Local health departments can start by holding a meeting with pharmacy partners to discuss their role in public health emergency response. These meetings may help uncover resources or services that could be shared in an emergency and result in memoranda of understanding. Visit our Pharmacy Partnership toolkit to learn how.
- Understand the Legal Frameworks: Local health departments should work to understand the local, state, and federal laws that would allow pharmacies to participate in an emergency response to the full extent of their education and training. The legal aspects of pharmacy partnerships vary widely across jurisdictions. Local health departments should work with local and state governments and legal counsel to identify the relevant laws in your area. Visit our Pharmacy Partnership toolkit to learn how.
This Statement of Policy is a valuable tool in outreach to pharmacy partners. The following are examples of how this statement could be used by local health departments:
- Show the value of pharmacy partnerships to internal health department leadership and relevant departments (e.g. immunization).
- Start conversations with the state health department and promote a local/state approach to building and sustaining partnerships.
- Open dialogue with state pharmacy associations, boards of pharmacy, and other organizations, especially with those that may be unfamiliar with the preparedness role pharmacies can play.
- Introduce the concept to schools of pharmacy faculty and discuss ways that public health preparedness can be introduced to pharmacy students.
How are you currently working with pharmacy partners? Are you looking for technical assistance to begin forming partnerships with pharmacy partners? NACCHO wants to hear your stories and is open to technical assistance requests.
NACCHO thanks Nchinda Ngeche (PharmD/MPH, Expected ‘15) and Simon Bae (PharmD, Expected‘15), students from the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, for their role in drafting this Statement of Policy. NACCHO’s Antiviral Dispensing, Flu on Call™, and Medical Countermeasures workgroups also provided guidance for the statement. We also appreciate the support of more than 25 key stakeholders from pharmacy and public health communities for their extensive review of this document.
- Shelton, C., & Foster, S. (August 2012). The pharmacist as public health advocate: Enhancing immunization rates. Drug Topics, 52–61.
- Rosenfeld, L., Etkind, P., Grasso, A., Adams, A., & Rothholz, M. (2011). Extending the reach: Local health department collaboration with community pharmacies in Palm Beach County, Florida for H1N1 influenza pandemic response. Journal of Public Health Management and Practice, 17(5), 439–448.
- Rubin, SE; Schulman, RM; Roszak, AR; Herrmann, J; Patel, A; and Koonin, LM. (2014). Leveraging Partnerships Among Community Pharmacists, Pharmacies, and Health Departments to Improve Pandemic Influenza Response. Biosecurity and Bioterrorism: Biodefense Strategy, Practice, and Science, 12 (2), 1-9.