June 5, 2020
UNC-Chapel Hill has been nationally recognized for its COVID-19 research efforts, and that includes faculty from various departments of the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy.
Co-PIs Delesha Carpenter, Ph.D., M.S.P.H., associate professor in the Division of Pharmaceutical Outcomes and Policy, and Stephanie Kiser, professor of the practice in the Division of Practical Advancement and Clinical Education, were recently awarded funding to study the pandemic’s impact on rural pharmacies. Both are located at the School’s Asheville campus.
“Our rural communities are experiencing the impact of this virus quite differently than our larger urban and suburban areas, and we recognize that our rural community pharmacists are at the heart of educating and caring for their local residents. We want to understand what these pharmacies and pharmacists are experiencing and leverage what we learn to better support them and the amazing care they offer in their rural hometowns,” Kiser said.
The North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences Institute (NC TraCS) provided $2,000 to survey members of the Rural Research Alliance of Community Pharmacies (RURAL-CP), a coalition of around 100 pharmacies in North Carolina and four other states. The questionnaire will collect information on how pharmacies have been affected by COVID-19 and what resources they think are necessary to better respond to their community’s needs.
“We built RURAL-CP to identify what issues rural pharmacies need help with and how best practices may need to be adapted for a rural context,” Carpenter said. “We were not planning to do any pilot studies with them until fall at the earliest. But because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we decided a survey would be really important and timely.”
Carpenter said the research team has already started sending out the surveys. They have already heard back from some pharmacies and are waiting for more responses over the next month before publishing results. Although this study is Carpenter’s first involvement in COVID-19 research, she said her previous studies on the relationship between conflicting health information and human behavior have been helpful as pharmacies deal with contradictory news about the virus.
Ideally, the survey feedback will help develop strategies for pharmacies to be more prepared in case of a pandemic. Carpenter said it was exciting to see how quickly the project has moved forward.
“A lot of things will be focused on urban areas,” she said. “I think this will give us some insight into some different things that need to be addressed for rural pharmacies specifically.”
Story by Veronica Correa