Staying Ahead of Women’s Health Trends: How Pharmacists Can Develop Weight-Loss Centers That Promote Results
Women’s health trends, especially those that aren’t going away anytime soon—like aging and obesity—offer a high-impact opportunity to pharmacists. You have the chance to help women improve their health and quality of life and in the process build a base of dedicated patients who make your pharmacy their first destination. Counseling for aging easily fits in the MTM routine, and while it may take a little more effort to develop a weight management protocol, remember that pharmacists play a vital role—weight loss success depends on collaborative health care efforts in the community.
Women’s Health Trends Impact Pharmacies
Women’s health issues are easy to list—reproductive health, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disease, breast and ovarian cancers—but two health trends highlighted in Pharmacy Today impact all women: obesity and aging.1 The CDC estimates that the number of women aged 65 and older will increase by 35 percent over the next decade, while obesity’s prevalence has already increased more than 50 percent among women over the past ten years.
Medication therapy management (MTM) gives pharmacists the perfect tool to provide support for issues related to aging. It only takes a few questions to assess a patient’s risk of frailty, which predicts progressive decline that can be reversed with timely intervention. Polypharmacy is another critical concern that requires pharmacist intervention. A study published in the Journal of Research in Pharmacy Practice found that 40 percent of seniors use multiple pharmacies, 36 percent have polypharmacy, and nearly 60 percent had contraindicated drug combinations.2
Pharmacists are also increasingly encouraged to be proactive about counseling overweight women. However, you should keep in mind that this group of patients already receives a lot of advice—and much of it doesn’t actually help them lose weight. Recent articles have suggested, for instance, that pharmacists take every opportunity to educate patients about alarming obesity statistics while warning them about the sharp rise in obesity-related health care costs. But statistics and costs are very unlikely to motivate women struggling with the metabolic, physical, emotional, and social aspects of obesity. In fact, talking numbers is more likely to alienate them.
Ideas for Pharmacy-Based Weight-Loss Services
If you want to expand your services and develop a weight management program, the first step is getting acquainted with existing programs in your area. Talk to the managers of these programs about what they perceive as the biggest need in the community.
If your pharmacy is in a rural area that lacks services, there’s clearly a need you can fill. During MTM appointments, ask women what services would be most valuable to them. Then connect with other professionals in the area who will work with you. If medical resources are limited, you might reach out to a local gym teacher or nutritionist.
Several models of pharmacist-led weight loss programs were reviewed in Integrated Pharmacy Research and Practice in July 2015.3 The article highlighted two formats:
- Pharmacy-based management programs: In one program, the pharmacist scheduled nine visits with patients over the span of 12 months. At each 10- to 30-minute session, the pharmacist weighed the patients and discussed eating plans and weight management strategies. About 41 percent of the patients who attended all meetings lost at least 5 percent of their initial body weight. By comparison, only 10 percent of those who missed meetings had the same success. Another program that was more intensive—14 visits over six months—had similar success.
- Collaborative practice weight-management programs: Forming a collaborative program lets all practitioners share the workload and gives patients more comprehensive care because they have access to a team that may include pharmacists, primary care physicians, endocrinologists, physical therapists, registered dietitians, and nurses. Auburn University, for example, runs a care center staffed by pharmacy faculty, medical residents, and students. Their weight-loss program tracks weight, body mass index, and waist circumference, as well as screening for blood pressure, heart rate, and blood lipids. They also develop nutrition and exercise plans and encourage patients to attend biweekly follow-up group meetings.
Tips to Remember When Counseling Overweight Patients
The standard advice to cut calories and increase exercise is still key to weight loss. Yet, considering the ever-increasing incidence of obesity, it hasn’t had much influence. When you discuss weight concerns with women, try to incorporate the following information:
- A program recommendation: Women who participate in a structured program have a better chance of losing weight and keeping it off—another good reason for you to develop weight-loss services. Current guidelines recommend group or individual sessions that last at least six months, but longer is better.4
- The importance of small dietary steps: Women don’t need to make a sudden, massive change in their eating habits—a fact that might be contrary to what they believe. While it’s important to evaluate the overall nutritional quality of their diet, patients should first focus on simply cutting 250 to 500 calories daily. Depending on their current diet, some women can accomplish this just by eliminating sweetened beverages and snacks. Your job is to help patients come to grips with a gradual, long-term process.
- The role of exercise: Women need to have realistic expectations about the impact of exercise on weight loss. It takes at least 30 minutes of intense exercise, like tennis, race walking, rowing, step aerobics, or vigorous bicycling, to burn 250 calories. This may be a reasonable goal for younger women, but older patients probably need to start with slow to moderate walking, which only burns 150 calories. Older women with arthritis or other types of muscle pain may also be more inclined to exercise if they use topical pain relief, so talk about those options as well.
- Straight talk about supplements and medications: You’re the expert in prescription and OTC weight loss medications, so make sure women know these are temporary fixes and that lifestyle change—not medication—is first-line treatment.
Hormonal changes and the body’s drive to avoid starvation are strong opponents in the weight-loss battle. And the same diet may work for some but not others. For example, studies show that the amount of weight lost on a low-fat versus a low-carb diet depends on whether the patient is insulin resistant or insulin sensitive.5 Your patients need to know there isn’t any one “best” way to lose weight—and that if their diligent efforts don’t pay off, it may be time to consult a physician.
The Collaborative Approach Gets the Best Results
Pharmacists are in the best position to provide necessary long-term guidance to many women, and today’s value-based health care system encourages you to get involved. Health problems related to aging require regular assessment, and it takes at least a year following weight loss for hormones to return to normal, which is when it gets easier to keep the pounds off.6 Whether you work within the confines of MTM or develop a community health care team, your efforts support lasting improvements in women’s health.
Pharmaceutica North America provides high-quality active pharmaceutical ingredients, prescription drug products, and OTC supplements. Contact us today to talk about how we can support your pharmaceutical needs.
- “Four Women’s Health Trends Pharmacists Should Watch,” May 2016, http://www.pharmacytimes.com/resource-centers/womens-health/4-womens-health-trends-pharmacists-should-watch/P-1 ↩
- “Polypharmacy in the Elderly,” April 2015, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4418141/ ↩
- “Pharmacist Interventions for Obesity: Improving Treatment Adherence and Patient Outcomes,” July 2015, https://www.dovepress.com/pharmacist-interventions-for-obesity-improving-treatment-adherence-and-peer-reviewed-fulltext-article-IPRP ↩
- “Expert Panel Report: Guidelines (2013) for the Management of Overweight and Obesity in Adults,” July 2014, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/oby.20660/pdf ↩
- “Weight Loss Resistance: Myth or Harsh Reality?” July 2016, http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/0716p32.shtml ↩
- “Successful Weight Loss Maintenance Includes Long-Term Increased Meal Responses of GLP-1 and PYY,” March 2016, http://www.eje-online.org/content/174/6/775 ↩