Map your steps - Pharmaceutical Drugs and Your Community

The key steps involved in taking action on pharmaceutical drugs are provided below as a useful starting point for developing your Community Action Plan activity and informing your approach.

Engaging the community

Engage the community to ensure the approach your LDAT takes is what local people want and need – and that it will be supported by, and beneficial for the community. This will also help you identify what already exists within the community that can be strengthened and built on. This includes:

  1. Identifying relevant community organisations who have access to the target audience you select (e.g. pre-surgery patients, those experiencing chronic pain or anxiety, older people, sporting clubs).
  2. Establish key contacts/gatekeepers within those organisations to champion the issue.
  3. Provide your community organisations with information about the evidence of harms from pharmaceutical drugs and potential strategies to prevent those harms.
  4. Establishing ‘what’s in it’ for the community organisation.

A critical role of an LDAT is to engage with the community to put the harms from pharmaceutical drugs on the public agenda, motivate the community to take action, and provide guidance on strategies to prevent the harms.

Tips for engaging the community:

  • Identify community organisations that you may partner with.
  • Identify key contacts and/or gatekeepers in target organisations who can act as a champion and with whom you can invest time into the relationship. A champion may be in a leadership role, have an influential personality, or be a proactive person who is passionate about preventing harms from pharmaceutical drugs. For example, key contacts may include a coach at a local sporting club. Meet face-to-face if you can, rather than just sending out information via email.
  • When discussing pharmaceutical drugs, promote the benefits to individuals, families and the broader community of raising awareness about alternative and complementary therapies and of preventing the harms that can occur from pharmaceutical drug use.
  • Keep in mind the topic is complex, and we do not want to frighten people away from taking pharmaceutical drugs they might need. Take the time to explain that although there needs to be increased awareness about the risks of pharmaceutical drugs, along with a discussion of alternative and complementary therapies, they do have a place in pain management.
  • Answer the question: ‘What’s in it for me?’. Find the hook for potential partner organisations. You might find these answers on their website, in strategy or annual report documents, or through direct discussions with staff from various parts of the organisations you are targeting.
Old friends

Providing information on the risks of pharmaceutical drugs

Provide information on the risks of pharmaceutical drugs by:

  1. Identifying accurate sources of information and related materials
  2. Identifying a ‘suitably qualified’ expert sourced from a local network or peak body
  3. Identifying gaps in information provision that can be filled
  4. Working with a school to provide upskilling opportunities for the community.

There are several reasons Australians might not have good information about pharmaceutical drugs. These include:

  • Time spent with health care providers can be limited so many Australians might not have enough information about the drugs they’ve been prescribed.
  • A perception that pharmaceutical drugs are ‘safe’ because they’ve been prescribed by a doctor.
  • A lack of understanding about the limitations of the effectiveness of pharmaceutical drugs, and the value and effectiveness of alternative and complementary therapies to pharmaceutical drugs.

LDATs can be a resource for community members and organisations by providing them with evidence and data on the risks of pharmaceutical drugs and educating about alternatives.

LDATs can provide advice and support to help community organisations to determine a course of action for delivering pharmaceutical drug activities. These activities could focus on; providing information and pathways to alternative and complementary therapies for people to access pharmaceutical drugs through pharmacies; ensuring people being prescribed pharmaceutical drugs receive accurate information about risks, potentially through GPs offices and hospitals; and raising awareness about the risks of poly-drug use and the increased potential for overdose when depressant drugs are mixed.

Linking community organisations to quality programs

Link community organisations to quality programs by:

  1. Identifying the information needs and/or gaps specific to your community
  2. Connecting with evidence-based programs that fill those specific needs or gaps
  3. Working with relevant qualified experts and community organisations to assist with delivering a pharmaceutical drugs information session or workshop
  4. Working with community organisations to recruit participants for the information session or workshop
  5. Working with the community organisations and expert to deliver the information session or workshop.

A key role of an LDAT is to link community organisations to quality information, activities, and experts. These may include:

  • Existing awareness raising campaigns and education programs
  • Expert guest speakers, sourced from local networks or peak bodies
  • Training and upskilling opportunities for community members, such as learning relaxation and mindfulness techniques or participating in healthy living workshops
  • Linking in with existing support groups for at-risk target audiences, such as those living with chronic pain
  • Linking community organisations to evidence about pharmaceutical drugs, harms, and alternatives
  • Identifying a ‘suitably qualified’ expert to select the best program to suit the community’s needs and to assist with delivering information or skill-building sessions
  • Working with community organisations and experts to plan an information or skill-building session in your community
  • Working with the community organisations to promote the information or skill-building session to your selected target demographic.

LDATs should not deliver activities unless the organisations in their team have the appropriate expertise. In the circumstances that they don’t have the required expertise, the primary role of LDATs should be to support ‘suitably qualified’ community organisations to deliver quality activities.

Community centre

Supporting community organisations with communication

Support community organisations with communication by:

  1. Helping them to develop a communication strategy to support the delivery of their selected pharmaceutical drugs activity
  2. Working with the community organisations to promote the benefits of their selected pharmaceutical drugs activity to individuals/family members/community.

Communication around pharmaceutical drugs is important, and if done poorly, may lead to people being misinformed or even put off using pharmaceutical drugs for legitimate purposes. Communicating the purpose and benefits of activities is also important and can have a significant impact on attendance and community involvement.

Your group can support community organisations with communication around pharmaceutical drugs and promoting activities. This may include helping groups to develop promotional materials, promoting activities and providing a sounding board on how to frame and communicate different messages or activities.

Key considerations when communicating pharmaceutical activities:

  • Ensure all communication is inclusive and recognises that pharmaceutical drug dependence can affect any community or family.
  • Be supportive. Avoid language that may be perceived as judgemental or stigmatising of people experiencing dependence.
  • Focus on the positives. Informing the community about pharmaceutical drugs, and providing information about and pathways to accessing alternative and complementary therapies, can positively impact the overall health of the community.
  • Recognise that there are legitimate purposes for pharmaceutical drugs, and people should take them when required.

Promoting collaboration between community organisations

Promote collaboration between community organisations to:

  1. Deliver community-wide awareness raising initiatives and education activities on pharmaceutical drugs
  2. Build supportive and inclusive healthcare services, which link up with alternative and complementary therapies
  3. Create a supportive culture between organisations
  4. Create strong community referral networks.

LDATs have a key role in facilitating productive partnerships in the community. Collaboration between community organisations may focus on:

  • Delivering community-wide awareness raising initiatives and education activities
  • Creating links between health care services and other services that can help with alternative and complementary therapies, such as nutrition advice or relaxation and mindfulness techniques
  • Helping to create a culture where the potential harms of pharmaceutical drugs are understood, and which promotes the role of alternative and complementary therapies for pain management
  • Creating strong community referral networks. Working with healthcare service providers to facilitate referral pathways for people likely to be prescribed pharmaceutical drugs, such as pre-surgery patients or those living with chronic pain, to access alternative and complementary therapies or by facilitating referral pathways for people who may be dependent on pharmaceutical drugs.

Measuring success and reporting

Measure and report on the success of your pharmaceutical drug activity. This can be done by:

  1. Collecting measures of success with the community organisations you are engaging with, as well as community members targeted by your awareness campaign or participating in your other activity
  2. Report on your success, acquit your funds, and consider other activities you can undertake to reduce the harms from pharmaceutical drugs.

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