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Original Research

Evaluation of a pharmacist-led, medicines education program for Aboriginal Health Workers

Submitted: 4 February 2008
Revised: 26 September 2008
Published: 16 December 2008

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Author(s) : McRae M, Taylor SJ, Swain L, Sheldrake C.

Michelle McRaeSusan TaylorLindy SwainCarol Sheldrake

Citation: McRae M, Taylor SJ, Swain L, Sheldrake C.  Evaluation of a pharmacist-led, medicines education program for Aboriginal Health Workers. Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2008; 8: 946. Available: (Accessed 21 October 2017)


Introduction: The health of Indigenous Australians is exceptionally poor compared with that of non-Indigenous Australians. Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death, the death rate being at least 2.7 times higher than the total Australian population. Indigenous Australians also experience underutilisation and reduced quality use of medicines. Aboriginal Health Workers (AHWs) are appropriate members of the healthcare team to provide information about medicines to the Indigenous community. However, despite having an expanding role in medicines management, AHWs have reported they do not have adequate appropriate education to support this role. Community pharmacists in localities with high Indigenous populations are well placed to provide medicines education to AHWs; however, to be successful in this role they need to develop their cultural awareness. The purpose of this study was to evaluate a culturally appropriate, pharmacist-led cardiovascular medicines education program for AHWs. Research questions included: What was the impact of the program on the pharmacists? What were the barriers and facilitators? Was the program useful and acceptable to the AHWs?
Methods: Four educational units were developed in collaboration with AHWs. A purposive sample of community pharmacists from western New South Wales (NSW) attended training involving instruction in the delivery of the program and cultural awareness training. The pharmacists then recruited local AHWs and delivered the program. Evaluation, with respect to the pharmacists, involved a repeated measures, three-phase questionnaire and semi-structured, face-to-face, in-depth interview post-program. Feedback was obtained from the AHWs in the form of a brief survey, and an audit of the attendance at each session was performed.
Results: Twelve pharmacists in 10 localities throughout western NSW delivered the program to a total of 47 AHWs. Statistically significant differences in the questionnaire responses, as a result of delivering the education, indicated the pharmacists felt better equipped to deal with Indigenous health issues (p = 0.002, Mann-Whitney U-test); they knew more AHWs in their area (p = 0.005, Mann-Whitney U-test); they felt more confident as educators of AHWs (p = 0.007, Mann-Whitney U-test); and more confident that they had the necessary resources to deliver this education (p = 0.005, Mann-Whitney U-test). The semi-structured interviews revealed that the experience of delivering the education improved pharmacists’ confidence as educators and motivated them to develop sustainable relationships with AHWs. A significant barrier lay in the challenges associated with organizing the AHW education sessions, while an important facilitator was prior established relationships with local Aboriginal health services. Evaluation with respect to the AHWs revealed the program reached 80% (n = 47/59) of AHWs within the western NSW region. In total, 46% (n = 27) of AHW participants attended all four educational units and attendance at each educational unit was above 78% (n = 37) throughout. The AHWs reported that they found the program interesting and relevant and were enthusiastic for future collaboration with the pharmacists.
Conclusions: The desire to develop sustainable relationships was seen by all participants as the most positive aspect of the program.

Key words:  Aboriginal health workers, cardiovascular medicines education, community pharmacy.

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