By Peggy Malovrh, Pharm.D., BCPS, clinical coordinator, Sparrow Health-System, Lansing
The Michigan Pharmacists Association (MPA) Local Associations hold the key to educating the public and increasing awareness of the services provided by pharmacists.
When the layperson thinks of MPA, what comes to mind is the person in a lab coat behind the counter or the person who explained the medication plan prior to discharge from the hospital. This person may be a neighbor, a fellow church or health club member. When a layperson thinks of MPA, hopefully a personal encounter with a pharmacist comes to mind, and not a building, a convention or a Senate bill. Education of the public is best done at the grassroots level, not at the state or national level.
Anyone who has helped organize a health fair knows it can be discouraging if the event is poorly attended. There is a Turkish proverb that says: “If the mountain will not come to Mohammed, Mohammed will go to the mountain.” Instead of coaxing people to attend a Pharmacy Event, why not go to them?
The MPA website has a Hosting a Health Fair Toolkit that offers great ideas for getting the word out as well as many helpful tips for communicating with the community. To find these resources, visit the MPA website here
—don’t’ forget to log into your MPA member account to access this member exclusive content. Described below are some successful actions that the Capital Area Pharmacists Association (CAPA) has had in reaching out to the public:
• Get permission to set up a booth at a popular event:
Think about your community and where people congregate. One example of a great location is a Saturday morning Farmer’s Market. Here people like to browse, and on a relaxed weekend morning, they are fresh and willing to listen. Another idea is hosting a booth at a special event at a children’s museum. Or how about a booth at a popular 10K or half marathon? There’s a lot of down time before and after the race, and providing bottled water might be just the thing to get the message out about osteoporosis or arthritis treatment.
• Develop a TV commercial:
This is easier than you think, and there are plenty of television viewers out there! A simple call to schedule a short appointment at your local broadcasting station is all it takes. The commercial and message doesn’t need to be elaborate. When CAPA did this we chose a 30-second spot to stay within our budget. A series of photographs of pharmacists engaged in service-related activities floated in all directions across the screen while the Oath of the Pharmacist was read. We provided the pictures of local pharmacists and technicians. We chose the background music and the cable company arranged a professional to read the oath. It turned out very well, and we were able to select the stations and times to coincide with high viewership to the populations we wanted to reach.
• Design a video to play prior to movies at the local cinema:
The content can be similar to the TV commercial, but the key is to use local pharmacists and pharmacies. The message can be more dynamic and interesting by including other disciplines, such as physicians or nurses, with their permission. Our group was surprised by the number of people who commented on the video, and it really became a conversation starter!
• Create a billboard:
This is a very simple way to reach the public, as all that is needed is the picture to be displayed and billboard location. The ideal location for the advertisement maximizes its viewing potential to the community.
• Stream a public service message on the Weather Channel or similar station:
For constant exposure of a key message, having a sentence or two continually stream at the bottom of the television screen on the Weather Channel or a similar station can be effective. We are so accustomed to receiving information this way, be it sports scores or news alerts, that this has the potential to reach thousands of people.
Promoting the profession and pharmacy services is most effective at the grass roots level. Attend your next local association or regional society meeting and kick around some of these ideas. We must inform our communities about the value of pharmacist’s interventions. We must get the word out!