What is self care?
Self-care empowers people to manage important elements of their own and their loved ones’ lives. It includes taking actions to improve their health and wellbeing to prevent and decrease the likelihood of disease and to restore health after illness or injury. It is the first step and first choice for Irish people who are taking an increasingly active role in their healthcare.
Why is self care important?
Healthcare in Ireland is going through a period of significant change – we have an increasing and ageing population, evolving health structures, greater private sector involvement in the health arena, a growing incidence of chronic diseases, ever increasing public expectations of the service and the development of new treatments which offer hope to patients but which also pose a strong financial challenge to the State. This challenge is compounded further given the State’s requirement to control healthcare expenditure.
We live in a world where if a condition is diagnosed early, it can often be quickly, effectively and efficiently treated using modern medicines, other medical interventions and behaviour modification. We are at a crucial point as a society, where we need to encourage small but significant changes in the behaviour of adults and children, to avoid a potential health crisis, which could overwhelm the system in the years ahead.
What are the benefits of self care?
The benefits of self care for both individuals and health systems are well documented.
Although no economic studies have been carried out in Ireland, studies have been carried out in other jurisdictions to measure the aggregate cost savings of using OTC medicines for the most common self-treatable conditions, and their results are relevant to Ireland.
According to a 2012 economic analysis conducted by Booz & Co for the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, each dollar spent on OTC medicines saves $6 to $7 for the U.S. healthcare system. The availability of OTC medicines currently provides $102 billion in value to the U.S. healthcare system annually.
Simple and strategic changes in the way self-care is defined and organised in Ireland can make a difference to the long-term well-being of the Irish people. In both health and fiscal terms, prevention is better than cure.
Increasing the uptake and engagement with self care
New research shows that almost half of the population, 59%, visit the pharmacy at least monthly. The following initiatives have been identified to increase the level of awareness of self care among the public and the role the pharmacist can play in promoting of and advising on self-care.
- Expand the Role of the Pharmacist
Pharmacists could play a key role in providing sufficient information and support to enable patients to make an informed choice. Pharmacists could undertake stronger advisory positions in their community through a range of actions; for example a Minor Ailment Scheme or healthcare promotions.
- The range of medicines made available to patients should be expanded through switching
For self-care to be fully effective, the range of medicines made available to patients should be expanded. Many barriers to reclassifying medicines from prescription-only to non-prescription, also known as ‘switching’ have been removed, but we need to look for innovative ways to increase the number of products being reclassified.
- The concept of self-care should be actively encouraged and promoted among healthcare professionals
This could consist of a joint declaration of commitment by the various organisations of healthcare professionals and allied healthcare professionals to coordinate their work more closely in order to ensure that patients access treatment at the lowest appropriate level rather than, as too often happens, seeking treatment at a higher level than required.
- Patients should have access to good quality, trustworthy information so that they can seek care at the appropriate level and, thus, enhance their independence within the healthcare system
Currently, there are few educational campaigns centred around the benefits of self care to entice the public to be more proactively involved in self care. It is essential, therefore, that all stakeholders, including the Health Service Executive (HSE), relevant patient and consumer organisations, professional medical and pharmacy organisations, regulators and industry should work together on health promotion campaigns centred around self-care to communicate the following key messages to the public:
- Patients should know self care means access to high quality, safe and effective products.
Millions of consumers rely on OTC medicinal products every day to address an assortment of ailments and, in the same way as Prescription Medicines, OTC products are formulated and manufactured with the highest quality standards and in compliance with Irish Regulations to ensure safety and efficacy for the marketplace in Ireland. Also Pharmaceutical Companies that manufacture and commercialise these type of products are being permanently evaluated and inspected by local and regional authorities to prove quality and safety standards, given the wide public exposure and access to these products.
Self-care is the care taken by individuals relating to their own health and well being.
In practice it includes the actions people take to:
- stay fit and maintain good physical and mental health;
- meet social and psychological needs;
- prevent illness or accidents;
- avoid unnecessary risks;
- use non-prescription medicines to treat minor ailments; and
- reduce the risk of long-term conditions.
Consumers want to actively manage their own health and are taking greater individual responsibility for their healthcare and their health choices.
On January 25th 2018, the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) in partnership with IPHA launched Self Care: taking charge of your health at the Royal College of Physicians in Dublin. The document features not only a detailed outline of what self care is and why it is so important, but also a major piece of research which highlights that pharmacists are perfectly placed to support it. IPHA-SelfCare-Pk-A4-Brochure-Print_1
The Government has recognised the importance of self care which forms an integral part of its major strategy Healthy Ireland
In October 2018, the role of community pharmacists in the successful development of self care and its more widespread adoption, was further emphasied by IPHA and IPU with the launch of ‘Be Well this Winter – Think Pharmacy’. The campaign was rolled out through the extensive deployment of social media, as well as a series of posters to be displayed nationwide in retail pharmacies.This campaign built on the previously highly successful IPU/IPHA joint initiative launched earlier that year, ‘Self Care: taking charge of your health’, which placed a major emphasis on the role of the pharmacist as a key component in helping people to manage their own health.