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Amid rising air pollution related health complexities, community pharmacists have a significant role to play to reduce its negative impact on respiratory health, a recent international study has concluded.

The latest report from International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) outlines how pharmacists can ensure proactive respiratory wellness of the people, besides responding and managing respiratory illnesses and symptoms which stem out of polluted air.

According to the World Health Organization, air pollution is the greatest environmental risk to health, with nine out of 10 people breathing polluted air every day.

The report, entitled ‘Mitigating the impact of air pollution on health: The role of community pharmacists’, presents the findings of an international survey on the awareness and roles of community pharmacists in relation to air pollution and respiratory health.

The survey received response from pharmacists in 62 countries and territories.

According to the latest findings, pharmacists’ most commonly reported roles in respiratory care include supporting the use of non-prescription medicines. This includes promoting self care, with common cold ranking as the most commonly consulted-on condition alongside promoting adherence to medication.

However, only five per cent of pharmacists generally and proactively discuss and manage the impacts of air pollution on respiratory health. Advice on protection against pollen was cited as the most common preventative counselling.

Gonçalo Sousa Pinto, FIP lead for practice development and transformation and co-author of the report, said: “This calls for professional organisations, including FIP, to develop such guidance to support this much-needed transformation of community pharmacy practice.

“There is an urgent need to address the direct threat that air pollution poses to the health of individuals and communities. The intelligence from this survey may inform policymaking, advocacy efforts and new service development by pharmacist organisations around the world.”

Advice on protection from both indoor and outdoor pollutants which include industrial or vehicle emissions is provided by pharmacists in less than half of the respondent countries and territories, with over one-fifth of pharmacists not yet providing any type of advice in this area.

Nevertheless, 92 per cent of the respondents said pharmacists want to evolve their role as trusted advisors and provide value in the area of respiratory care and air pollution.

The survey also defined a number of barriers that must be overcome if the profession is to be able to practice to its full potential in this area, lack of training being the first.

For example, in half of the responding countries and territories, pharmacists were not entirely aware of the link between air pollution and the immune response to viral infections.

The lack of an appropriate remuneration model ranked second at the top as a barrier, followed by legal restrictions on performing screening and triage (17 per cent).

The report concludes that community pharmacies are significantly underutilised in the screening of respiratory disorders in 95 per cent of responding countries and territories.

Gaps in the availability of practice guidelines and standards were also revealed.

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