How Pharmacists Can Assist Underserved Communities After Natural Disasters


Rural communities are often left without adequate assistance in times of need, but pharmacists can provide crucial care.

In July of 2022, flash flooding ravaged an unspecified rural area in eastern Kentucky. A team from the University of Kentucky (UK) at Lexington was deployed to the damaged areas to give assistance to individuals in need and determine whether or not having a pharmacy background could be helpful in providing care to affected people that other health care workers may not be able to.

The poster was presented at the APhA Annual Meeting & Exposition. Page Fields, PharmD candidate 2023, and her coauthors detailed how PharmacistCare Team deployed groups of volunteers to provide care and assistance to victims. PharmacistCare is a branch of the academic medical center pharmacy services.

The team spent 10 days traveling across 9 rural counties and volunteered more than 500 hours. A pharmacy senior director and a lead physician determined the areas were assistance was needed the most immediately.

Once they arrived in the disaster area, the team doled out supplies and resources, notably vaccines. “Of the 586 total vaccines administered in this effort, 289 tetanus vaccines, 67 Hepatitis A vaccines, 60 Hepatitis B vaccines, and 170 combined Hepatitis A and B vaccines were given to flood victims and volunteers.”

Resources after a natural disaster—especially one that takes place in an underserved, rural community—are limited. Adding pharmacy-driven relief after the flooding in eastern Kentucky proved to be very effective in terms of simple manpower. It also helped supply a set of skills that proved vital; medications that were destroyed in the flood were refilled, and preventative health measures were taken because many individuals were exposed to “contaminated flood water and debris.”

Though anyone who assists after a natural disaster is helping by merely being an extra body, pharmacy workers’ expertise in areas like prescription filling and safe vaccine administration provide another layer of relief that other relief organizations are unable to give.

“Pharmacists are uniquely positioned throughout health systems to address a wide scope of medication and patient care related concerns,” the poster concludes. “The success of medical care in natural disaster events is largely dictated by great leadership, adequate delegation of resources and time, and prepared volunteers to efficiently provide necessary medical care when it is needed most.”

Regarding continued efforts for rural disaster relief, the University of Kentucky said that the overwhelming success of this project means similar assistance programs will take place in the future. “Volunteers were asked if spending days away from work to volunteer in eastern Kentucky caused any difficulties, and the responses were overwhelmingly positive. Each member reiterated how thankful they were to be in the position to positively contribute to the flood relief, and UK healthcare plans to stay active within emergency response efforts.”


Fields P, Hudspeth B, Hallahan J, Grantz D. A pharmacy-led approach to aid in natural disaster relief for underserved rural communities. Presented at: APhA Annual Meeting & Exposition; March 24-27, 2023; Phoenix, AZ. Abstract 1027.

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