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News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

The integral role of First Nations pharmacists: NACCHO and Pfizer leaders address the complex gap

Health Industry Hub | March 20, 2024 |

Pharma News: Ahead of Thank Your Pharmacist Day on 21 March, Mike Stephens, Director of Medicines Policy and Programs, National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) and Leigh Simmonds, Senior Manager of Patient Advocacy, CSR and RAP Leader, Pfizer delved into critical issues surrounding health equity and the role of pharmacists in First Nations communities.

The conversation began with an acknowledgment of the latest Close the Gap data, revealing a sobering reality: only 5 out of 19 targets for First Nations people are currently ‘on track’. The pressing question of what contributes to these gaps and, more importantly, how progress can be made to bridge them was addressed.

“It shows the breadth of the challenge. To impact the social and cultural determinants of health requires a whole of government effort. It’s very important how we improve the culturally safe, responsive and appropriate care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people especially in relation to medications,” Mr Stephens stated.

A significant point of discussion revolved around the stark lack of diversity within the pharmacy workforce, particularly concerning the representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander pharmacists. With only 0.31% of registered pharmacists in Australia identifying as Indigenous, the duo stressed the critical need to address this workforce gap.

Pfizer’s partnership with NACCHO in supporting a new Graduate Pharmacist Scholarship program was highlighted. Ms Simmonds shed light on the motivations driving this collaboration, emphasising the shared commitment to addressing healthcare disparities and supporting the leadership development of Indigenous pharmacists.

“The partnership has been an evolution over time. Showing up and being part of the conversation, and listening and learning from this incredible self-determination sector has been really important to the development of trust and this partnership,” Ms Simmonds elaborated.

“I hope that with the recipients of this scholarship we can develop a longer term relationship. They can provide advice to Pfizer and NACCHO on their journey, and how we can have a longitudinal approach to the program which can either be replicated or reimagined,” Mr Stephens said.

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