HHS secretary visits Walgreens

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CHESAPEAKE, Va. — Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius drove home the point about the importance of getting a flu vaccination this season by receiving her annual shot at Walgreen Co.’s health and daily living pilot store in Chicago’s Chatham neighborhood earlier this month.

“It’s very exciting to see stores like these built on the principle that good health starts with steps we can all take to avoid getting sick in the first place,” said Sebelius about the role community pharmacies such as Walgreens play in offering convenient health care services.

“A perfect example of preventive care is getting your annual flu shot to protect yourself and your loved ones,” she said. “So we’re working closely with pharmacies like Walgreens to make the vaccine widely available in communities across the country.”

After receiving her shot, Sebelius toured the new store with Walgreens president and chief executive officer Greg Wasson, who highlighted the outlet’s ability to offer accessible, preventive health services such as flu vaccinations and diabetes care in underserved communities.

“We appreciate Secretary Sebelius recognizing the important role of community pharmacists in health care,” Wasson said. “With this pilot store we are advancing the profession of pharmacy by providing greater accessibility to pharmacists for medication counseling, answering questions and providing additional clinical services.”

Sebelius said the Walgreens health and daily living store, which features nurse practitioners and offers vaccines and physicals, provides an insight into the role community pharmacies can play in the nation’s evolving health care system. At its 20 pilot stores in the Chicago area Walgreens is positioning the pharmacy as a neighborhood health center.

“One of the goals is to really have people be able to access preventive care in an easy fashion without a lot of barriers,” she said.

Walgreens executives noted that pharmacists are playing an increasingly vital role in patients’ health care — especially in medically underserved communities, where they provide access to health care services that often go beyond dispensing medication.

Flu vaccines, the company said, have been among the services that patients have taken advantage of the most. For instance, the company’s recently released Walgreens Flu Impact Report finds that influenza affects every part of a person’s life.

“The one constant when it comes to flu season is that it’s unpredictable, and flu activity can generally peak anytime between October and April in the U.S.,” chief medical officer Dr. Cheryl Pegus said. “There’s no planning for an ill-timed illness, and these findings from last year’s typical flu season reinforce the importance of getting a flu shot each year.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 13% of the country’s population gets the flu every year, with the most severe flu seasons seeing closer to 20%, or more than 62 million Americans, get sick.

The Walgreens Flu Impact Report finds that bouts of the flu resulted in 100 million lost workdays last year, along with nearly $7 billion in lost wages and 32 million missed school days. Taking into account missed workdays, all or parts of vacations, child care costs, doctor visits and other related costs, nearly one-third of respondents to the poll said they spent between $251 and $1,000 on treating the flu last season.

“When it comes to the flu and your own personal calendar, there’s no planning for the many things it could impact,” Walgreens president of pharmacy, health and wellness Kermit Crawford said.

“Immunization rates have climbed, and last season more than 40% of the U.S. population received flu shots,” he said. “This report helps to reinforce the importance of getting a flu shot and how that small step toward protection can provide peace of mind when it comes to other important aspects of our lives.”


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