Community pharmacist is one of the most prominent and accessible healthcare professions. The community pharmacists' role in healthcare is evolving, with opportunities being taken to reduce pressure on primary care services. However, the question remains of how well community pharmacists are equipped for this changing role. This was a sequentially designed study using a mix of methods to explore nutrition education among community pharmacists in Northern Ireland. It consisted of two phases. Phase 1 was a cross-sectional exploration to map the attitudes and practice of Northern Ireland (NI) pharmacists towards diet-related health promotion and disease prevention. An online questionnaire with open and closed questions to gain both quantitative and qualitative responses was developed and distributed to community pharmacists practising in NI. A total of 91% considered nutrition important in reducing the global burden of disease. While the majority (89%) believed patients would value nutritional advice from a pharmacist, 74% were not confident in providing advice to a patient with diabetes. From the consensus gained in Phase 1 a nutrition education intervention (Phase 2) for pre-registration pharmacists was developed using the Hardens 10 question system. The training programme was advertised to pre-registration pharmacy students in NI. It was delivered by nutrition experts who have education qualifications. The intervention was evaluated using a before and after questionnaire that assessed knowledge, attitudes, and practice (KAP). Phase 2 did find sustained improvement from the baseline in KAP but there was a decline from immediately post-training to three months post-training. This suggests the need to further embed nutrition education. The education programme was found to be effective for the target population and sets the stage for the development of an implementation strategy for a wider roll-out with evaluation.
Keywords: community pharmacists; nutritional education; public health.