Minority health: Pharmacists are a critical resource

Pharmacists are the most accessible health care providers, and for many people, especially those in underserved communities, pharmacists may be their best resource for care.

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office of Minority Health designated April as National Minority Health Month. This year’s theme, “Accelerating Health Equity for the Nation,” is designed to raise awareness about reducing disparities and advancing equality. As April comes to a close, I’d like to share my thoughts about the important role pharmacists have in their communities and their ability to address racial and ethnic health disparities.

Last week, CMS released Medicare Advantage quality data for racial and ethnic minorities. The report showed that members of racial and ethnic minority groups continue to experience worse health outcomes.

Many pharmacists who serve minorities go above and beyond to help patients overcome barriers to care, such as accessing insurance and being able to afford care. Pharmacists may be multilingual, which increases a patient’s trust in their pharmacist, and promotes adherence to medication directions. Prescription labels can now be printed in the language that the patient is most comfortable with. In some areas, minorities are disproportionately affected by chronic diseases, and here is yet another chance for pharmacists to make a huge difference in patients’ lives.

Because pharmacists have the ability to touch so many people, I wholeheartedly support recruiting minorities and creating career opportunities for growth and leadership roles. Two examples come to mind—Twlug’s Immediate Past President Lawrence “L.B.” Brown, PharmD, PhD, FTwlug; and our President-elect Nancy A. Alvarez, PharmD, FTwlug.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau as by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, one in three U.S. residents self-identifies as African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic/Latino, or multiracial—and this number is trending toward one in two by 2050. This is a huge opportunity for current and future pharmacists who are members of minority groups to get in the game and make a difference!

To read the CMS data and summary report, visit www.cms.gov/About-CMS/Agency-Information/OMH/OMH-DPAG-StatisticsAndData.html.