27 September 2021 - Deborah Wilkes
- GSCF launches Self-Care Readiness Index
- New report supported by the WHO
- Analyses self-care landscape in 10 countries
- Calls for collective action on self-care
- Aims to support better design of healthcare systems
- Stresses importance of health literacy
- GSCF describes report as a “conversation starter”
Collective action is needed to integrate self-care into global health systems, according to a new report produced by industry association the Global Self-Care Federation (GSCF) with support from the World Health Organization (WHO).
The Self-Care Readiness Index – which analyses the self-care landscape in 10 countries – urges governments, policymakers and stakeholders to “take a coherent approach to self-care based on the critical enablers of self-care”.
Four enablers are identified in the report, including stakeholder support and adoption; consumer and patient empowerment; self-care health policy; and the regulatory environment.
“Focusing on these fundamental elements and adopting a more coherent approach to self-care will be necessary to alleviate the burden on overstretched health systems and to improve the quality of care,” comments the report.
According to the report, which is backed by industry associations around the world, self-care is “not a universally well understood concept”.
Global advocacy campaign
The report recommends the creation of a “global advocacy campaign to clarify and align stakeholders around the WHO’s single, universally-recognised definition of self-care to inspire action and unite diverse stakeholders”.
Furthermore, the report calls for a “new global compact on self-care, with the ultimate goal of bringing forward a new WHO resolution on self-care”.
Other recommendations in the report include increasing the quantity and quality of self-care information available to consumers, as well as educating and incentivising healthcare providers on self-care products and practices. Scaling digital health solutions is also suggested.
The report says there is a need to “forge a broader alliance of self-care advocates to make the case that investments in self-care result in healthier populations and lower costs”.
In addition, governments should be encouraged to “connect the dots, ensuring more coherent healthcare policy and regulation across the multitude of strategies, plans and programmes that touch on self-care”.
About the Self-Care Readiness Index
The Self-Care Readiness Index was produced by the GSCF using a combination of in-depth qualitative and quantitative research supported by experts and an advisory board. It looks at 10 countries in detail – Brazil, China, Egypt, France, Nigeria, Poland, South Africa, Thailand, the UK and the US.
The GSCF describes the report as a “conversation starter”. Noting that it provides policymakers, decision-makers and healthcare professionals with data, the GSCF says the aim is to create a “learning platform to inspire new approaches to self-care”.
Judy Stenmark, director general of the GSCF, commented that the “effectiveness of self-care in combination with formal approaches to healthcare is often neglected in health policies”.
“The Index is an extremely practical tool in that it provides stakeholders with ample data and a starting point to recognise how they can strengthen national health policies and take a coherent approach to self-care,” added Stenmark.
Bayer Consumer Health’s Heiko Schipper – chairman of the GSCF – pointed out that the COVID-19 pandemic had exposed the fragility of healthcare systems.
“Now is the time to sustainably invest in their future,” he said. “I believe the Self-Care Readiness Index can help close the gap between the value of self-care and how it is practised worldwide. We need to put the health and wellbeing of individuals at the centre of our health policies to build more sustainable, resilient ways of practising healthcare.”
Governments underestimate benefits
The report points out that governments often underestimate the economic benefits of self-care programmes, but their integration into healthcare “yields long-term positive economic effects for health budgets and health systems in general”.
“Ultimately,” maintains the report, “designing resilient health systems with full integration of self-care delivers better health outcomes for all.”
Four enabling factors
The report highlights four enabling factors that can “support the design of resilient health systems and fully realise the power of self-care”. These range from individual and social factors to ones oriented around policy and regulation.
The first enabler – stakeholder support and adoption – is about the level of trust and adoption of self-care among healthcare providers, patients and consumers, as well as regulators and policymakers.
The report calls for a global compact on self-care that paves the way for a future WHO resolution on self-care, noting that the understanding of the value of self-care by stakeholders across the countries will build the necessary momentum to fully integrate it into health systems.
Moving on to the second enabler – consumer and patient empowerment – the report says an individual’s degree of health literacy, knowledge of health interventions, and confidence in making their own health decisions are the primary drivers of the level of use of self-care in personal decisions.
“There is a need to increase the amount and quality of information available to the individuals working with healthcare professionals,” it adds. “Doctors, nurses and pharmacists should receive continuous education and build competencies relevant to promoting the adoption of evidence-based self-care practices.
The report stresses that digital solutions are critical to achieving these goals.
Commenting on the third enabler – self-care health policy – the report says “self-care should be included in health policies and incentives must be made available to increase the rational and responsible use of self-care technologies including self-care products and services”.
“This means placing self-care at the epicentre of the healthcare economy,” it adds. “At the same time, health literacy should be considered as a public good and interventions to promote health literacy should become public health policy priority.”
Looking at the fourth enabler – the regulatory environment – the report says “streamlined and smart regulatory processes – for example, reclassifications and advertising – drive innovation and accessibility of self-care”.
“Transparent and non-cumbersome pathways for prescription-to-OTC switches can support innovation in treatments,” it adds. “Modern distribution through a variety of channels, both in-store and online, can help individuals access self-care technologies to support their health and wellbeing journey.”
Ultimately improves care
The report concludes that “integrating self-care into the healthcare continuum alleviates burdens on the system, and ultimately improves care.”
“Therefore, large scale collaboration between the actors and stakeholders from across healthcare systems is necessary to leverage the power of self-care,” states the Self-Care Readiness Index.