Nelson pharmacist offers lifestyle checks alongside medication plans

Nelson pharmacist Hannah O’Malley, who also works part-time at Nelson Hospital, is undertaking lifestyle checks at Life Pharmacy Prices in Nelson to help customers form healthy diet, exercise and sleep habits.

Comprehensive Lifestyle Assessments are also being developed and will target patients with high cholesterol, obesity, hypertension, heart disease or diabetes.

In 2017, she set up her own business, The Better Base, which is a collaborative health promotion platform supporting people to learn about healthy, sustainable plant-based eating and take steps towards a healthier lifestyle.

Partnering with a range of health professionals, academics, athletes, chefs, iwi, charities and community leaders her recent seminars, movie nights, webinars and other efforts have attracted huge demand in the Nelson region and across New Zealand as people look to improve their health through what they eat.

As well as improving public health, The Better Base aims to improve the capability of clinicians to provide lifestyle advice for people who want to begin learning healthier habits alongside their medication plans.

“The growing burden of lifestyle-related diseases including obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and inflammatory conditions on our health, budget and community can be turned around and pharmacists can play an important, leading role in this,” explains O’Malley.

O'Malley grew interested in food, people, and science while studying pharmacy at the University of Otago. There, she learned not just about how pharmaceuticals and medicine could treat disease, but also became interested in how to support people's health through what they eat.

"Through the degree I recognised the really important place of medicine, but also the limitations it had in typically not being able to prevent disease but just manage the symptoms," she says.

O’Malley stresses that the lifestyle changes are not intended to replace pharmaceuticals, but to complement them. “Alongside medicine, lifestyle choices can help change the course of the disease.”

She would like to see more pharmacists looking to encourage healthy lifestyles, as they are well placed to encourage healthy lifestyle choices, she says, because they tend to see patients early and often in their health journey.

"It doesn't replace the medication, but we are saying that lifestyle is a really important component of health care, and in some cases, it means people can reduce or come off their medication in consultation with their doctors.”

Through the development of a package of Lifestyle Pharmacy services, she aims to support more pharmacists to be confident in serving their communities in a similar way in future.

The Pharmaceutical Society of New Zealand recently called for applications from members who had been part of developing an innovative or collaborative service.

O’Malley was one of the top four applicants who were each asked to give a 10-minute presentation to a “shark tank” panel of judges at the Society’s 2019 Conference “Towards Integrated Health” held in Auckland recently.

The external “shark tank” panel of judges commented that O’Malley’s presentation came a very close second to Helen Cant’s innovative trial using new technology to manage type 2 diabetes.

The Society applauds all those members who submitted Shark Tank applications and who have taken the initiative to look at how they can work to offer innovative new pharmacy services to improve patient’s experiences and health outcomes.