The value of self-care
When practised correctly and responsibly, self-care provides a wide range of benefits, not only for individuals, but also for society and health systems.
Benefits of self-care for people
Self-care products can be acquired without a healthcare professional prescription and play an important role in the sustainability of healthcare systems. They are often the first choice for people as they enable to manage symptoms of a wide range of common health issues, such as headaches, common cold, cough, musculoskeletal pain, allergies, tobacco dependence, heartburn, emergency contraception, gastrointestinal disorders etc. Self-care enables individuals to carry on with normal life and be productive (go to work/school, play sports, care for children, travel, etc.), and contributes to their overall wellbeing.
The benefits of self-care for people
- Empowered individuals: Self-care products empower people to take their health and well-being into their own hands, giving them the opportunity to improve their quality of life.
- Improved well-being, whatever our age: A wide range of health conditions can be self-diagnosed, treated, monitored and/or resolved by supplementation. Self-care products are a critical part of well-being at all stages of life, starting with infant colitis to pain management in older age.
- Efficient ailments management: Self-care plays a key role in the management of certain conditions and improves symptoms and recovery times. Cold and cough products, when used responsibly to manage viral respiratory infections, indirectly contribute to reducing the consumption of antibiotics, often mistakenly considered as effective against cold and cough.
- Better availability: The ever-growing range of self-care products provides greater choice in healthcare and wellness. Likewise, it offers the opportunity for the pharmacy profession to expand their competence and offer immediate solutions to the people and communities they serve. Thanks to a dense network of community pharmacies and their extended operating hours, as well as the availability of pharmacists’ advice with no prior appointment, self-care products are the first choice in the self-care continuum for many.
Benefits of self-care for society and health systems
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the role of self-care in supporting the resilience of health systems became more apparent than ever. Self-care played a decisive role, avoiding the risk of exposure with unnecessary visits to overburdened healthcare facilities and already exhausted healthcare professionals. The self-assessment and self-management of minor conditions, often supported by the advice of pharmacy professionals, was very significant to face an emotionally stressful period of imposed confinement or voluntary self-isolation.
The benefits of self-care for society and health systems
- More efficient, less stressful, less time-consuming: Self-care saves individuals time and effort by enabling them to treat or manage number of their health needs conveniently and successfully by themselves or in consultation with a pharmacist or other healthcare professionals. In turn, it reduces waiting times at doctors ‘office as well as unnecessary emergency department visits.
- Better resource allocation: Self-care eases the workload of strained healthcare systems by enabling them to allocate resources more efficiently, thus increasing their capacity to treat people with long-term and complicated conditions.
- Lower costs: Self-care products help combat rising healthcare costs for individuals around the world. They are often the most cost-effective solution for minor ailments, since alternatives like seeing a doctor not only mean additional costs, but also require time off.
- Better return on investment: Investments in self-care lead to demonstrable long-term savings for governments and healthcare systems as well as individual households.
The figures speak for themselves
Investments in self-care and improving access to self-care options lead to demonstrable long-term savings for governments and healthcare systems as well as individual households. Several studies highlight the economic and social value of self-care.
- making more medicines available without prescription would result in potential savings up to €2.1bn
- potential savings may be allocated to new, cost-effective drugs for severe diseases and/or unmet needs
- it is estimated that over £1.5bn could be saved each year and reinvested into the NHS
- an estimated 18 million GP appointments are taken every year in UK for self-treatable conditions. Demand and pressure on healthcare services could be relieved.
- €1 invested in OTC medicines saves €5,20 of direct costs for the health system
- self-care frees up ~2 hours/day of GPs time
Source: May, U., Bauer, C. (2013): Der gesundheitsökonomische Stellenwert von OTC-Präparaten in Österreich. Vienna 2013
- net saving of ca. €21bn p.a. in expenses by current practices in self-care
- a future scenario forecasts additional savings of €2.2bn in medical expenses and €426mio in costs of medicines
- due to fewer sick leave-associated losses, further €6 bn of expenditure can be avoided already and additional €750mio are expected to be saved
- a major relief for the healthcare system and substantial benefits in terms of time spent
- potential saving of ~2 hours/day for GPs
- switching 5% of medicines currently prescribed to OTCs could save 3.125€ million, explained by improving quality of primary health care (2.258M€), improving labor productivity (507), optimization of non-working patients’ time (579) and a reduction of public pharmaceutical expenditure (979)
A major public health resource
Self-care is a major public health resource and the fundamental level of resilient health care systems. When we self-care responsibly, we ease the workload of strained healthcare professionals and increase their capacity to care for the people who cannot treat themselves. Self-care contributes to stronger healthcare systems and better health outcomes for all.