Pharmacists well placed to advise on diabetes

diabetes-pic by Claire Howell, Community Pharmacist, Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board

Back in June, I was invited by a call centre in Swansea to perform diabetes risk assessments. Health professionals know what the risk factors are for diabetes but do the general public? Pharmacists, I think, are well placed to help raise awareness of these risk factors.

The community pharmacy team are regularly in contact with a large section of the local community, routinely visited by people who do not consider themselves to be ill. ‘Each visit is an opportunity to engage with members of the public about their lifestyle and to make a contribution to improving their health’ (Welsh Government White Paper: Listening to you – Your health matters, pp 41-43).

Armed with my Diabetes UK risk assessments, information booklets, tape measure and scales, I headed into the world of the call centre. The timing of my visit was ideal as it was during diabetes awareness week. The appointments were booked in advance, so I knew I had a busy and worthwhile day planned.

The main questions I was asked were: “My friend has diabetes so I am worried if I will become diabetic as I don’t know the risk factors” or “I have heard of it but I want to know if I am at risk.” This led very nicely to talking through the assessments (based on BMI, waist measurement, history and age) and informing them about the differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. It was clear that most people didn’t understand the difference between them.

This was actually the second time I had visited the call centre to do diabetes risk assessments. During my first visit, the people I spoke to were at higher risk of diabetes, and I was able to advise appropriately (and to see the GP if risk was high). This time, it was more about giving general information about the condition and putting minds at ease. It was good to see there was more awareness of the condition.

Everyone I spoke to, even those with a lesser risk of diabetes, were motivated to make changes to their lifestyle to reduce their chances of developing the condition. I wonder what the next round of assessments will bring?

If you are a pharmacist and would like more information about diabetes, it’s worth looking at The Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s diabetes toolkit. If you are a patient, the website has some useful information and clearly explains the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes.