CLINICAL pharmacy specialist Dr O'Neal Malcolm is encouraging Caribbean pharmacists to recognise their unique position in stemming the effect of climate change on sustainable pharmaceutical care.
Speaking at the Caribbean Association of Pharmacists Convention in St Kitts last month, Dr Malcolm, whose presentation focused on the 'Effects of Climate Change on Sustainable Pharmaceutical and Health Care', pointed out the devastating trajectory of climate change in the Caribbean including rapid coastal and beach erosions, increased flooding and storm surge, salt-water infiltration into fresh-water sources, and the extended effects on economies which rely heavily on sectors sensitive to weather such as tourism, agriculture, fisheries.
"By extension, the already vulnerable and burdened health-care sectors across the region further impacts delivery and access to health care and essential medicines, outbreak of water-borne diseases, increase in the spread of mosquito-borne illnesses and poor air quality and mould on respiratory health, and disruptions in pharmaceutical supply chains and distribution, among other concerning effects.
"Small island developing states [SIDS] including Eastern Caribbean islands only contribute less than one per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to our climate change crisis. However, the global impact of climate change has been wreaking havoc on vulnerable countries including the Eastern Caribbean islands despite their smallest contribution to greenhouse gas emissions," he said.
As such, Dr Malcolm said pharmacists are uniquely positioned as the most accessible health-care practitioners in the Caribbean and have a professional opportunity to to ensure more sustainable use of medicines and to decrease the carbon footprint and environmental risk associated with medication use.
He said: "Sustainability interventions focused on strategies such as improving prescribing and medicine use, tackling medicines waste, clinical preventive care, and improving infrastructure and ways of working. Mechanisms accounting for disruption of pharmaceutical care include effects related to medication access, storage and distribution, temperature effects induced by heat intolerance, effects on pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamic parameters, and photosensitivity effects. Caribbean pharmacists are in a unique position to increase awareness through community education advocacy focused on behaviour modifications to minimise climate-related side effects and adverse impacts. Additionally, Caribbean pharmacists can engage local and regional health-care leaders and governments in disaster preparedness and disaster management strategies to minimise adverse effects related to climate change."
Dr Malcolm further emphasised the importance of risk assessment, stakeholder engagement, grant funding, information campaign awareness, and investing in disaster-resilient infrastructure.
"Inaction can lead to further negative effects on tourism, agriculture, access to potable water, migration, coastal erosions, and access to health and pharmaceutical care," he said.
Dr Malcolm maintained that pharmacists should leverage their unique positions to mitigate these issues in pharmaceutical care.