El Rio Community Health Center honored with 2009 APhA Pinnacle Award

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As I have said on occasion, the health care insurance reform debate seems to have underestimated the role of the clinically-trained pharmacist in improving care and cutting health care costs. Hands-on community-based drug management models have been operating around the US with far less fanfare than cut-rate prescriptions at Wal-Mart or CVS Caremark.

So I was delighted to learn via Phoenix pharmacist commenter, Michael Guzzo, that El Rio Community Health Center in Tucson, Arizona, was recognized this past summer with a 2009 Pinnacle Award from the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) Foundation.

These awards were inspired by and created in response to the increasing importance of the proper use of medications in today's health care environment. Morbidity and mortality associated with improper medication use is a major public health problem, resulting in significant disability and up to 100,000 deaths each year. An estimated 177 billion dollars is spent annually on preventable hospitalizations, lengthened stays, and/or prolonged treatment as a result of prescribing contraindicated therapy, drug-drug interactions, adverse drug reactions, duplication of drug therapy, and/or errors in drug administration.

"The 2009 Pinnacle Award recipients represent those who are shaping the future of health care delivery," said William M. Ellis, APhA Foundation Executive Director and CEO. "Their work shows that system changes and new thinking are not only possible but can enhance medication use and improve patient outcomes. The one constant between all of the award winners is that they never fail to put the patient as the focal point in the care process and I commend them for their commitment to quality."

Guzzo pointed out to me that a four-minute YouTube video is available from APhA detailing the activities of El Rio. Diabetes disproportionately affects Hispanic patients, and especially type II diabetes in Native Americans of the Pima tribe, in the Land of the Sun. Through a series of culturally-sensitive and reading level-appropriate materials and face-to-face medication counseling, El Rio's team of three clinical pharmacists and others are making great strides in improving the quality of life, and decreasing the costs of diabetes complications, for thousands of good folks in the Sonoran region.

Of great pride to me is that the team is led by Pharmboy laboratory graduate, Sandra Leal, PharmD, CDE. We featured an interview with her back in October for the Diversity in Science Carnival during Hispanic Heritage Month. Sandra is featured prominently in the second half of this video.

Congratulations to all the good folks at El Rio who are making a world of difference in the lives of diabetes patients in Arizona and serving as an example for community pharmacy practice models nationwide

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