A COVID-19 vaccine record card. (DoD photo by EJ Hersom)
A pharmacy professor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences was selected to be a principal investigator on a National Institutes of Health-funded project that will look at ways to address coronavirus vaccine hesitancy through rural, community pharmacies.
Prof. Geoffrey M. Curran will work on the project, which “will examine sustainable ways to support rural pharmacists as they implement COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy counseling practices to mitigate the negative impact of the virus in underserved rural populations.”
According to UAMS, Curran is internationally recognized in the field of implementation science — the study of how best to support adoption of evidence-based practices.
Curran will work on the project with contact principal investigator Delesha Carpenter, an associate professor and interim chair of the Division of Pharmaceutical Outcomes and Policy at the University of North Carolina Eshelman School of Pharmacy.
“I see this grant as a culmination of an idea we have had for a number of years — build a network of rural community pharmacies and then leverage their ideas, talent and commitment to move pharmacy practice forward,” said Curran. “As researchers we can do this by conducting large implementation-focused studies in partnership with these pharmacists. With the funding of this first R01 capitalizing on the infrastructure of RURAL-CP (the first multi-state rural pharmacy network in the country), the idea is becoming a reality.”
Curran is a professor of pharmacy practice in the College of Pharmacy and director of the UAMS Center for Implementation Research. In April, UAMS invested him in the inaugural Endowed Chair in Pharmacy Practice. He has additional faculty appointments in the College of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry and the Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health’s Department of Health Policy and Management. He also is a research health scientist at the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System.
Rural areas tend to have the lowest vaccination rates in Arkansas and around the U.S., and health leaders have consistently looked to rural pharmacists as trusted members of the community that can show their neighbors the benefits of vaccination.
This project will examine how well virtual implementation helps pharmacists deliver vaccine counseling, and whether more patients choose vaccination as a result. The team will also look at the methods’ sustainability.
“The communication intervention that we are developing is guided by the expertise of the pharmacists and patients who work in rural areas. They are the drivers of the intervention’s content,” Carpenter said. “For this reason, we believe the intervention will be salient to people living in rural areas and not sound like canned messaging that was developed by people who don’t understand the concerns of patients in these communities.”
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