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6 tips to make your public health initiative a success

Bannside Pharmacy takes us through the ups and downs of running a healthy living service

Inspired by a weight loss event held at a local Gaelic club, Bannside Pharmacy in Northern Ireland created Portglenone gets healthy!, an initiative to encourage healthy lifestyle and weight loss. The premise was simple: eat well, exercise often and come to the pharmacy for initial measurements and weekly weigh-ins. It was such a success that it bagged the pharmacy the C+D Award for Public Health Initiative of the Year 2015. Pharmacy owner Eoghan O’Brien, who spearheaded the project, shares his experiences of what worked well and the potential pitfalls the pharmacy faced. 

1. Build on existing projects

The pharmacy was previously involved with a local ‘biggest loser’ event held at the Gaelic club, which was popular among residents in Portglenone. By putting their own spin on it, Bannside Pharmacy was able to open the club's weight loss event up to the wider community and a new audience. 

According to the pharmacy team, all it took was a poster in the window and some leaflets on cars to oversubscribe the programme. This popularity would not have been possible if they hadn't built on another event that had done a lot of the ground work, meaning it didn’t take much work for the initiative to gain support among the community. Eoghan also says that their success with this initiative was due to the community being familiar with the pharmacy.

2. Limit the size

As easy as it was to sign up the 100 participants, plus a sizeable reserve list, the Bannside team recognised the difficulties of dealing with such a large quantity of people. Eoghan says that “100 was really stretching us” and recommends that others should have a smaller cohort. They opened it up to such a large group because they sought to create as much evidence as possible from the initiative, Eoghan explains. Part of their work required doing a number of tests and measurements in the first and final weeks, resulting in seeing 20 different patients each day for a week. This required a full-time pharmacist for a week.
 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Celtic Manor, Newport, Wales

Could you win Public Health Initiative of the Year 2016?

Enter the C+D Awards 2016 for free in 3 easy steps

1. Go to chemistanddruggist.co.uk/awards and register your details

2. Select the category you wish to enter and complete the secure online entry form – you can edit and save your entry as many times as you like before you submit it

3. When you are happy with your entry, submit it with one click. Repeat steps 2 and 3 to enter more categories.

3. Get the right resources

Needing a full-time pharmacist for a week required additional funding, and Eoghan was successful in a bid to obtain a NPA health education foundation bursary to help his initiative - one of three grants available across the UK. In addition, he secured £3,000 funding from the Northern Health and Social Care Trust, enabling participants to go to a variety of fitness classes. Bannside pharmacist Ryan Graham said they would not have got the funding if it wasn’t for Eoghan’s persistence in his search and describes it as a “waiting game”.

When deciding what evidence would be best for patient evaluation, Eoghan did a diabetes risk score as part of his initiative – a measurement created by the University of Leicester. By working hard to get the right resources, the team were able to be as effective as possible within their time constraints.

4. You need team effort and passion

Eoghan says this wasn’t a solo effort by the pharmacists involved but “very much a team effort”, admitting it wouldn’t have been as successful without an enthusiastic and dedicated team. Pharmacy technician Shauna Hagan was involved in taking measurements and motivating patients on a weekly basis. She says that the success was due to everyone involved having an interest or experience in either fitness or losing weight.

5. Communicate with other healthcare professionals

Eoghan emphasises the importance of keeping other healthcare professionals updated on the scheme's progress, and a need to have “good communication from the onset”, because this helps prevent issues developing down the line.

Initially, he spoke to the GPs when the initiative was in the planning phase; he wanted to know what criteria they thought warranted referral. The GPs “cautiously welcomed the project”, and Eoghan explains that if they weren’t involved at the start they may have seen it as “unnecessary referrals [and] additional paperwork” and not have been keen to involve themselves with the project. Having this good relationship early on helped later in the project, when he sought to find out more information about the participants. Building a good relationship helped him gain access to patient details for a three-month follow-up to see if the initiative had ongoing success.

Additional benefits

Although the funding paid for a second pharmacist and events held for participants, the initiative didn’t make a profit for the pharmacy.

However, there were other benefits for the pharmacy. Ryan explains that the pharmacy noticed a higher footfall, with new patients coming in who wouldn’t be part of their typical customer base. Not only that, but staff mentioned that customers involved had more confidence with them as healthcare providers – this has improved patient trust and strengthened their relationship with the pharmacy.

 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Celtic Manor, Newport, Wales

Could you win Public Health Initiative of the Year 2016?

Enter the C+D Awards 2016 for free in 3 easy steps

1. Go to chemistanddruggist.co.uk/awards and register your details

2. Select the category you wish to enter and complete the secure online entry form – you can edit and save your entry as many times as you like before you submit it

3. When you are happy with your entry, submit it with one click. Repeat steps 2 and 3 to enter more categories.

2 Comments

London Locum, Locum pharmacist

A complete and utter waste of time for the majority of pharmacies.

Eoghan O'Brien, Community pharmacist

Most valuable use of my time in many years. I had 3 of the participants in on Monday asking if the programme was going to run again. The focus was more on wellbeing than weight loss and the participants showed a significant improvement in their mood scores which were measured with the NHS Choices Wellbeing self assessment questionnaire (at a time of year when mood scores drop). 2 of them were diabetic & both of their HBA1c measurements almost halved when taken 3 months after the programme finished. We have gathered considerable evidence to demonstrate that a programme like this delivers measurable health benefits over and above weight loss. This can make big savings to the NHS and deserves to be properly funded.

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