AAHP Integrative Medicine Retailer Award: History and Philosophy

By Mark Land, M.S., RAC, AAHP President 

For several years now, food, drug, and mass retailers have recognized the consumer shift toward integrative health. To assist and connect with retailers in this channel, AAHP sought to develop an engagement program with this community. Starting in 2019 with this in mind, AAHP looked across the range of nutritional, diagnostic, education, and societal spectrum to understand what was happening at retail to address those needs. 

We found that foundations of retailer programs were different among retailer types. Grocery and pharmacy retailers were both approaching the matter but from different points of origin. Grocery retailers tend to approach the goal of integrative care beginning with nutrition. Pharmacy retailers tend to approach the matter from a diagnosis standpoint. Neither of these findings are surprising — rather they confirm what should have been suspected. 

We see that grocery retailers begin by providing fresh wholesome food products at the lowest possible prices. They couple that with nutritional education and a wide variety of complimentary healthcare options. Foodbank support and general educational outreach within the communities they serve is another key feature of regional grocers. Healthy eating is foundational to grocery retailer programs. Since proper nutrition is fundamental to a healthy lifestyle and disease prevention, grocery retailer integrative programs are foundational to the health of their consumers. 

Chain drug retailers tend to begin with a consumer who is also a patient or a caregiver. In contact with the consumer at a different stage of the health journey, chain drug retailers work to integrate treatment regimens by providing access to healthcare providers, complimentary OTC medicines, dietary supplements and a wide array of health and hygiene products. Pharmacists and other healthcare providers onsite can observe and advise consumers on a range of products and services available in the store. Increasingly pharmacy retailers are providing maintenance, diagnostic, preventative, and complimentary treatment services to their consumers. Often the pharmacy staff may be the only contact some consumers have with healthcare providers. In their role as an extension of continuing care, chain drug stores have increased their selection of complimentary and supportive healthcare products, including homeopathic drug products. 

Because retailers are doing so much to improve the health of their consumers, it is often difficult to make a selection among many deserving candidates. In general, AAHP looks to recognize those retailers that are making the largest impact across the health journey of their consumers. It is always a challenging decision. We are reassured, however, to know that deserving candidates can always be recognized the next year. Now in its 5th year, the AAHP Integrative Medicine Retailer Award has recognized four outstanding retailers: Wegmans Food Markets, Rite Aid Corporation, Meijer Inc, and H-E-B Grocery Company. It has been a real pleasure getting to know more about the health programs at each of these impressive organizations. Connecting with the leading staff and seeing their dedication is inspiring. 

If you haven’t done so already put Sept. 20 on your calendar for the next AAHP Integrative Medicine Retailer Award Reception. This year’s event will be held in Philadelphia in conjunction with Natural Products Expo East. Plan to network in-person or view the presentations virtually.