Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Curriculum Recommendations of the AACP-PSSC Task Force on Caring for the Underserved

Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Curriculum Recommendations of the AACP-PSSC Task Force on Caring for the Underserved

Article excerpt

A task force was convened by the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) and the Pharmaceutical Services Support Center (PSSC) and charged with the development of a curriculum framework to guide pharmacy programs in educating students on caring for the underserved. Utilizing a literature-based model, the task force constructed a framework that delineated evidence-based practice, clinical prevention and health promotion, health systems and policy, and community aspects of practice. Specific learning outcomes tailored to underserved populations were crafted and linked to resources readily available to the academy.

The AACP-PSSC curriculum framework was shared with the academy in 2007. Schools And Colleges are urged to share experiences with implementation so that the impact of the tool can be evaluated. The task force recommends that the AACP Institutional Research Advisory Committee be involved in gathering assessment data. Implementation of the curriculum framework can help the academy fulfill the professional mandate to proactively provide the highest quality care to all, including underserved populations.

Keywords: underserved populations, curriculum, community-based learning


Medical advances have improved the overall quality and duration of life in the United States. As our understanding of disease and drug therapy at the molecular level has deepened, doctor of pharmacy programs have assiduously and continuously incorporated new knowledge and technologies into the curriculum. Students work hard to master an ever-expanding body of knowledge, and to develop the scientific understanding and clinical skills needed to provide basic and advanced health care services to the public. Yet despite our graduates' competence and sworn duty to make a positive impact on society through the relief of human suffering, the provision of high quality pharmaceutical care is often limited in underserved populations. To do the greatest good for the greatest number, pharmacy graduates must not only have the knowledge, attitudes, and skills to provide quality pharmaceutical care, they must care enough to proactively seek opportunities to render that care to the disenfranchised and forgotten people within our society.

Underserved Populations

The United States Government agencies define underserved populations using several criteria. The US Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) describes underserved populations as "those who face barriers to timely access to health services which provide the best possible health outcomes. Populations ... include racial and ethnic minorities, low income groups, women, children, elderly, residents of rural areas, and individuals with special health care needs." (1) Medically underserved areas and populations are determined by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) based on an index of medical underservice. (2) The 4 variables used to calculate a medically underserved area designation are (1) percentage of the population below the poverty level; (2) percentage of the population age 65 years and over; (3) infant mortality rate; and (4) ratio of primary care physicians per 1,000 population. Exceptions to the calculated index of medical under service consider "unusual local conditions which are a barrier to access to, or the availability of, personal health services."

In addition to geographically defined underserved areas, many individuals have limited or no access to physician- or pharmacist-delivered care despite living in an area with an abundance of practitioners and services. Cultural and socioeconomic factors, literacy, and/or disabilities may all affect a person's ability to obtain, and their acceptance of, available health services. Lack of health insurance, limits in terms of coverage, and difficulty accessing information related to state-subsidized health insurance are all important barriers to care. …

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