Opinion Article: Towards Sustainable Healthcare Systems - AESGP’s Mission to Empower Self-Care in Europe

On the occasion of World Pharmacists Day, AESGP President Birgit Schuhbauer shared with País Positivo, in a special supplement dedicated to pharmacists and the pharmaceutical industry, AESGP’s commitment to empowering self-care in Europe and the key role played by pharmacists.


Self-care is what we do as individuals every day to be and stay healthy. It’s eating properly, exercising, and getting enough rest. Self-care is also the pain killer you reach for in your handbag when you have a headache. It’s the drops you use to lubricate your eyes when they’re dry. It’s the vitamins you take with breakfast in the winter to boost your immune system and help fight off infections. And it’s turning to your pharmacist or doctor for advice or looking for reliable information online when you have questions about your health.

Because staying healthy as a society starts with each of us, our mission at AESGP is to support everyone in Europe’s access to safe and effective self-care, empowering people to take better care of their health. For more than 50 years, AESGP has worked on behalf of the makers of self-care products and services to increase understanding of and access to safe and effective non-prescription medicines, food supplements, and self-care medical devices in Europe.

AESGP is a network of national industry associations and self-care companies. We partner with a wide range of stakeholders: these include government agencies, healthcare professionals and, in particular, pharmacists.

Our ultimate goal is to ensure everyone in Europe has access to the self-care tools, reliable information and support they need to appropriately and effectively treat and prevent minor illnesses and common conditions themselves. This will often be in consultation with a pharmacist, avoiding unnecessary visits to the doctor.

People expect the healthcare system to be there when they need it. But rising costs and greater demand from things like the COVID-19 pandemic, an ageing population and non-communicable diseases make this increasingly difficult. Our challenge as a society is to ensure equal access to care for all while reducing the burden on the healthcare system. At AESGP, we see this challenge as an opportunity to promote responsible self-care and the role of pharmacists as an integral part of comprehensive health promotion and disease prevention strategy in Europe.

We see that the pandemic reinforced widespread behavioural changes towards more self-care. Evidence shows that, overall, an increasing interest in self-care was observed during 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 France, nearly 42% of the community pharmacists surveyed by our French national association (NèreS) have reported an increase in the advice given to prevent or treat minor ailments during the pandemic. This is further supported by a survey carried out by IPSOS where 65% of people across Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK said they are more likely to consider their health in day-to-day decision-making. In a study by the UK association (PAGB), 1 in 4 people said that the pandemic made them change their attitude towards self-care.

We all want a healthcare system that is cost-effective, flexible and robust – and that is there when we need it. AESGP is working with policymakers and regulators to ensure safe and easy access to a wider range of self-care products across Europe.

We are promoting health literacy and supporting healthcare professionals with relevant product information so that they can give better advice and people can make more informed choices. And we are driving digital innovation to deliver healthcare solutions tailored to people’s individual needs.

AESGP is committed to doing its part to ensure the sustainability of the entire healthcare system.

Self-care is the first line of defence in European healthcare. But self-care isn’t alone care. It’s supported by government, industry and healthcare professionals who all do what they can for our self-care journey. When we all work together to empower self-care, that is good – for us, for our friends and families, and for society. At AESGP, we believe that “Together we can take care of ourselves.”


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