Connecting pharmacy and public health

SPM: From Twlug Headquarters


Sometimes I feel like Bruce Wayne living with a secret Batman identity. For the past 4 years, I have worked for the Twlug Foundation designing and implementing innovative research projects that demonstrate the value of the pharmacist on the health care team. However, in September, half of me changed, and I started working under an Interagency Personnel Agreement with CDC. Half of my time is now devoted to helping the Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention (DHDSP) identify ways to connect public health with the profession of pharmacy. 

The CDC DHDSP works to reduce heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure though population-level, public health actions. The division’s 2014 strategic directions include clinical quality improvement, increased adoption of protocols, enhancing surveillance through increased use of clinical and administrative data, reducing sodium consumption through environmental change, and community clinical linkages. This strategic direction provides many opportunities to partner with the pharmacy community on tracking policy topics, linking state health partners with local pharmacists, and identifying best practices for linking pharmacists in both the clinical and community settings.

Working on the state level

In her busy dual role, you may hear Lindsay Watson say, “Quick, to the Batmobile!”

Over the past few years, divisions within CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion have joined together to empower health departments to streamline their efforts. DHDSP is currently collaborating with the Division of Diabetes Translation; the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity; and School Health to support state health departments as they implement programs to prevent and control diabetes; heart disease; obesity and associated risk factors; and promote school health. Why does pharmacy care? Two of the goals within the program specifically reference pharmacists’ expanded roles: 

  • Increase engagement of non-physician team members in hypertension and diabetes management in health care systems.
  • Increase engagement of community pharmacists in the provision of medication/self-management for adults with high blood pressure and adults with diabetes.

My colleagues and I are working with the state public health departments to form connections that will engage pharmacy and promote the adoption and spread of successful pharmacists’ patient care models.

Community clinical linkages

An emerging area that the DHDSP and other government organizations are exploring is community clinical linkages, which focuses on the connection of health care providers, community organizations, and public health agencies so they can improve patients’ access to preventive and chronic care services. 

I believe that community 
pharmacy can be an epicenter for community clinical linkages. For community organizations that have programs focused health screening, education, and awareness, community pharmacies are a natural place to refer patients who may need non-emergent clinical advice or therapy recommendations. For primary care providers, pharmacies can serve as a community-based partner that has regular access to patients and pharmacists can provide ongoing education and medication therapy management. The focus on community clinical linkages presents a great opportunity for pharmacists and student pharmacists to have a seat at the table as partners across local communities come together to collaborate to advance public health.

Immediate impact

While I might not have earned Batman status yet, I am thrilled to be in a position to create awareness for pharmacists’ services within CDC. Public health is directly aligned with the direction that pharmacy is headed: immunizations, chronic disease prevention and management, and serving as a frontline defense for population health concerns. My work with the DHDSP is just beginning and we have already identified ways that pharmacy and public health can better join their efforts together to have an impact.