Four organisations have been asked to work with pharmacists to enhance their work with disadvantaged and vulnerable groups in society.
Pharmacists already help in areas such as stopping smoking, sexual health advice and substance misuse. The government would like them to do even more and get involved in aspects of care such as checking people's blood pressure and even measuring blood glucose.
Pharmacy HealthLink, The Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, the Faculty of Public Health and the UK Public Health Association will work with pharmacists to develop new ways of improving health and reducing inequalities.
Announcing the contract, Health Minister Rosie Winterton said pharmacists have been a major untapped resource for health improvement.
"This consortium will help to maximise the contribution of pharmacists, their staff and the premises in which they work, playing a part in helping people enjoy healthier lives by giving them access to more information about their health care."
The public health role of pharmacists forms part of Choosing Health, a consultation on Public Health launched by Health Secretary John Reid in March. The consultation is ongoing until the end of June and a White Paper will be published later in the year.