Created on 3/17/2021 9:02:57 AM
Written by Michael Graydon, CEO of Food, Health & Consumer Products of Canada
Published on January 29, 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic thrust Canada’s healthcare system and its invaluable workers into the spotlight. Seeing the strain COVID-19 placed on our already stressed system has brought home the urgent need to address weaknesses in the system and ensure it is sustainable for whatever the future brings.
While direct investments in the publicly-funded healthcare system are one element of support, other options like improving self-care present a clear, cost-effective way to dramatically improve people’s health and the sustainability of our healthcare system.
Yet, self-care is routinely overlooked and undervalued. Focusing exclusively on the publicly-funded healthcare system neglects Canada’s most important healthcare resource - people. Self-care encompasses everything from making healthy lifestyle choices to treating minor ailments, managing or preventing chronic diseases, and more - all of which can help save time, money, and resources and keep the public-funded healthcare system strong.
Food, Health & Consumer Products of Canada (FHCP) commissioned Abacus Data to conduct new polling to assess Canadians’ understanding of self-care, its benefits, and support for strategies that can empower Canadians to take better care of themselves.
Abacus found that Canadians clearly see healthcare as a top concern - more than six in ten Canadians agree healthcare is a priority, regardless of political affiliation. Canadians identify rising costs, an aging population, and the COVID-19 crisis as top threats to the healthcare system, and 77% expect healthcare costs to rise in the next decade.
The survey also found that majorities of Canadians think emergency room wait-times, access to family doctors, and overall capacity of the publicly-funded healthcare system are “unacceptable”.
FHCP believes self-care can help address these strains and weaknesses, and Canadians agree. More than 90% of Canadians think improving self-care is a good idea and support the federal government implementing National Self-Care Strategy.
In addition to supporting health literacy and empowering people to practice self-care, Canadians think the federal government should make over-the-counter and natural health products more available, accessible, and affordable. More than three-quarters of Canadians want the federal government to remove GST on non-prescription medications and natural health products (81%) and allow Canadians to claim non-prescription medications and natural health products for the Medical Expense Tax Credit (75%).
FHCP is calling for the federal government to implement a National Self-Care Strategy that will prioritize self-care, including by strengthening the consumer health product sector that produces non-prescription medications, treatments, and natural health products Canadians rely on to treat minor health ailments, manage or prevent chronic diseases, and more.
Even small shifts to improve self-care can add up to massive impacts that support our healthcare system. If just 2% of Canadians who sought professional care for mild colds, headaches or heartburn practiced self-care instead, Canada could eliminate more than 3 million unneeded doctor visits annually and free up enough physician time to allow an additional 500,000 Canadians access to a family doctor."
According to the World Health Organization, strengthening self-care reduces costs and increases healthcare quality, access, and equity. When the UK National Health Service identified self-care as one of its four pillars and instituted supportive policies, use of publicly-funded healthcare services reduced significantly, health and quality of life improved, and patient satisfaction increased.
Indeed, evidence abounds around the world that strengthening self-care has widespread positive impacts for individuals and for healthcare systems. In the United States, every dollar spent on consumer health products saves an estimated 6-7 USD elsewhere in the healthcare system. In Australia, reclassifying a few select prescription medicines as non-prescription could result in over 1 billion AUD savings. Switching just 5% of medications prescribed to treat conditions suitable for self-care to non-prescription status would save more than 16 billion EUR.
Similar switches could make a massive difference in Canada. Switching safe, commonly-used prescription drugs that don’t need a doctor’s supervision to non-prescription status makes it easier for people manage their health, reduces healthcare costs, and would boost the Canadian economy - saving more than $450 million in reduced cost of medicines, $290 million in reduced cost for doctor visits, and $290 million in improved productivity and reduced absenteeism.
The pandemic has demonstrated just how important individual health decisions and actions are to public health and to the sustainability of our healthcare system.
Join FHCP and Abacus Data for a digital conversation on self-care February 3, featuring an in-depth presentation on public understanding and support for self-care, along with expert insights on the benefits of self-care for individuals’ and public health. Registration is free and further details are available here.
To learn more and read FHCP’s Blueprint for Development of a National Self-Care Strategy, visit OnEveryShelf.ca/self-care.