Pharmacists possess significant potential for providing health services to the public when it comes to issues of weight management. However, this practice has not been observed in most parts of the world including low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) such as Pakistan. The aim of this study was to explore the potential role of pharmacists in providing healthy weight management (HWM) services to adults in Pakistan, and the barriers associated with the implementation of this type of role.
This descriptive qualitative study was set in seven hospitals (public and private) and three chain pharmacies in Lahore, Punjab – a province of Pakistan. Data was collected from in-depth individual interviews with pharmacists (n = 19) and medical doctors (n = 15). Purposive sampling techniques were applied to recruit both types of study participants. Telephone contact was made by the trained data collectors with the pharmacists to set the date and time of the interview after explaining to them the purpose of the study and obtaining their willingness and verbal recorded consent to participate. Registered medical doctors were recruited through snowball sampling techniques. The sample size was determined by applying the point at which thematic saturation occurred. All interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. The data were analyzed to draw conclusions using inductive thematic content analysis.
Through inductive qualitative analysis eight themes emerged; potential role for community pharmacists, collaborative approaches, barriers, ideal pharmacist-based weight management program, professional requirements and need for training, potential for implementation, current scenario in pharmacies and level of trust of pharmacists. The first six themes were common to both pharmacists and medical professionals. The unique theme for doctors was the ‘level of trust of pharmacists’, and for the pharmacists was the ‘current scenario in pharmacies’.
The majority of participants in our study had strong convictions that Pakistani pharmacists have the potential for provide effective HWM services to their communities. Of concern, none of the participating pharmacies were offering any sort of weight management program and none of the medical professionals interviewed were aware of HWM programs taking place. Medical doctors were of the opinion that pharmacists alone cannot run these programs. Doctor participants were firm that after being adequately trained, pharmacists should only carry out non-pharmacological interventions. To implement a HWM pharmacy model in Pakistan, it is necessary to overcome barriers outlined in this stud