Pharmacies are a frequently overlooked piece of the health care access puzzle. Dima M. Qato, PharmD, PhD, MPH, an associate professor at the USC School of Pharmacy, views pharmacy access as a human rights issue. Before she joined USC, her extensive experience as a community pharmacist and public health advocate in Chicago exposed her to the hardship of people living in “pharmacy deserts,” who must travel for hours in order to pick up their prescriptions.
To tackle this severe disparity, Qato has led the development of an interactive mapping tool that shows the location of every pharmacy in the United States. The tool also highlights neighborhoods that qualify as pharmacy shortage areas. Qato’s Pharmacy Access Initiative works in collaboration with the USC Schaeffer Center, the Spatial Sciences Institute at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and the National Community Pharmacists Association, which represents independent pharmacies around the country.
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