Since its inception in Wuhan (China) in December 2019, the new coronavirus disease COVID-19 has significantly disrupted our lives. In just a few months, the disease resulted in extreme societal, economic and political disruption across the world. Throughout the pandemic and successive lockdowns, self-care has played a crucial role in addressing a number of health system and societal challenges.
AESGP is releasing its Evidence Summary “Self-care in times of pandemic and beyond: looking back a year after” with the objective of mapping and highlighting existing evidence around the importance of self-care during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Covering a variety of studies carried out at (cross-)national levels, the AESGP Evidence Summary highlights that the importance of self-care has been brought to light by COVID-19. During the pandemic, it has become more evident that self-care highly contributes to preventing the spread of infections and helps to ensure healthcare resources are available for those most in need by enabling anyone to take a more active role in their health.
In this vein, the pandemic reinforced widespread behavioural changes towards more self-care. Evidence shows that, overall, an increasing interest in self-care was observed during the year 2020 all across Europe, with a general trend that people are more willing to treat minor ailments themselves or to ask for advice from pharmacists.
In addition, COVID-19 accelerated the uptake of technology for healthcare and self-care. A pre-pandemic survey showed that more than half of EU citizens (53%) aged 16-74 reported seeking online health information related to injury, disease, nutrition, improving health or similar. With lockdowns and social distancing measures in place, it is evident that online resources were even more used in 2020. Telemedicine also proved to be a viable alternative to regular face-to-face appointments, and an effective complementary tool to assist the population, when regular admission/scheduling procedures are disrupted.
By releasing its Evidence Summary, the AESGP calls to not forget the lessons brought upon us by the COVID-19 pandemic. Self-care is part of our daily wellbeing and our first line of defence in case of minor ailments. Supporting self-care brings benefits for individuals, society and health systems.
AESGP calls for continued efforts to encourage the population to think of self-care as their first step in healthcare. They must be empowered to take a more active role, by being provided with trusted information and professional support, including online.
COVID-19 accelerated the progress of healthcare digitalisation. We are looking at a future where more and more consultations will happen online, and where more digital services around self-care products will be offered to further empower people. In this context, health literacy will continue to play a crucial role in a good health management. It is important to invest in a life-long learning approach while emphasizing the role of the pharmacist in assisting people in the management of their health.
AESGP will continue to work towards greater general understanding of self-care and healthcare. When we all work together to empower self-care, that’s good – for us, for our friends and families, and for society. At AESGP, we like to say that “Together we can take care of ourselves – 24/7”.