CHPA Chat - A Global Perspective on the Self-Care Readiness Index

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Episode Summary

What are the key factors that help societies, communities, and individuals focus on their personal healthcare? That's our topic for today's CHPA Chat, as we discuss a brand new report showing how ready certain countries are to adopt, promote, and support self-care, and what it means for CHPA member companies in the US.



Episode Transcript

Anita Brikman: How do we get more people around the world to embrace self-care? What are the key factors that help societies, communities, or individuals focus on their personal healthcare? That's our topic for today's CHPA Chat, as we talk about a brand new report showing how ready certain countries are or not to adopt, promote, and support self-care and what it means for CHPA member companies in the US.

Audio: Welcome to CHPA Chat, conversations in the consumer healthcare industry with Anita Brikman.

Anita Brikman: Hello, everyone. Today, we're talking about self-care, which we do quite a bit on this podcast. Self-care means a lot of different things to different people. Is it taking care of our emotional well-being? Is it using technology to track our exercise or fitness habits, or is it taking advantage of all the over-the-counter medicines, dietary supplements, and consumer medical devices available without a doctor's prescription? Of course, it's all of those things. But the last definition is what we in the consumer healthcare industry tend to focus on. How is this aspect of self-care being advanced or held back around the world?

That is what the Global Self-Care Federation set out to measure with its brand new Self-Care Readiness Index released in the fall of 2021. Joining me today is the director general of the Global Federation, Judy Stenmark, as well as Dave Tomasi, chief commercial officer for Bayer Consumer Health North America and a big supporter of promoting self-care around the world. Thank you both for being with me.

Judy Stenmark: Thanks, Anita.

Dave Tomasi: Thanks, Anita. Good to see you all.

Anita Brikman: Judy, this is a really kind of impressive name here, Global Self-Care Readiness Index. What does it mean and what is the impetus behind it?

Judy Stenmark: Thanks, Anita. Well, look, first of all, it's really exciting to be here today and chat with you all. Self-Care Readiness Index, what is it? It's really, first of all, I'm happy to see the first of its kind research and policy tool that is really exploring critical enablers of self-care readiness across selected health systems around the world and it aims to support a better design of health systems, but really how can we get self-care integrated into health systems. That's the big challenge for us.

The Self-Care Readiness Index showcases that improving the understanding of the benefits of self-care supports better outcomes in health systems. Really there is an urgent need to harmonize through a potential WHO resolution, for example, which we can talk about later.

Anita Brikman: That is a lofty goal, correct, to get that resolution?

Judy Stenmark: It is. It is a lofty goal. But you know what? We've got to start somewhere, and we believe that everything we do to try and get a WHO resolution in the next few years, every action we take, every policy position we take will help us to get self-care where it needs to be.

Anita Brikman: You mentioned enablers. What are these enablers that really set the climate for acceptance and adoption of self-care?

Judy Stenmark: Okay. What we developed, if you like, was a methodology where we came up with four critical enablers and then we matched countries' performances against these enablers. Now, number one was around stakeholder support and adoption. Now, we know that self-care thrives when there is an understanding, where there's trust and support for self-care among providers, patients, and consumers. What we were trying to really measure there was how much support do we really have in terms of self-care across the board? Second enabler was around consumer and patient empowerment.

We know self-care delivers the greatest value when people have access to their own health data, for example, and when they have a high degree of health literacy and what we are calling now self-care literacy. We're really finding that coming up in nearly everything we're talking about these days in terms of improving individual literacy, self-care literacy. The third enabler is around self-care policy, and self-care yields the most benefits really for health systems when leaders and decision makers recognize the economic value of self-care and there are also incentives for providers and consumers to engage in self-care.

The fourth enabler, around the regulatory environment. Self-care thrives when the rules and processes for new products and switches, for example, all work to ease consumer access to self-care solutions. That's in a nutshell what the four enablers are all about.

Anita Brikman: Dave, let's bring you in here. I would imagine the US is doing pretty well compared to other nations. Is that true? How did we perform on this index?

Dave Tomasi: Yeah, thanks, Anita. Overall, the US fair as well in the Readiness Index when comparing us with other countries regarding performance against the four enablers that Judy just spoke about. However, the US is more ready in some enablers than in others. Let me take a moment to walk through some of these enablers and focus on the US performance. On the first enabler, the regulatory environment, which scored a 3.88 out of four, the US is doing very well.

It's due to our regulatory body, the FDA, that is supportive and engaged in every sector of self-care, everything from OTC medicines to dietary supplements, to devices. Also, the OTC monograph system, which is the regulatory framework that oversees most of the OTC medicines in the US, just went through a major modernization with the support of the FDA in our industry, which will make the regulatory structure more nimble and more responsive. It will help boost innovation in the industry by creating a process and incentives to advance OTC options and consumer choice.

The US system allows for advertising for all non-prescription medicines and supplements in all media with no advanced approval required with a strong system of oversight that involves the Federal Trade Commission, the FTC, and OTC medicines and supplements are not subject to any price controls.

Anita Brikman: Dave, does this kind of set us apart from other countries, some of this advertising capability, as well as the issue with price? Does that set us apart?

Dave Tomasi: It does set us apart, because in other countries, there are requirements for approvals before media can go on air, and there are price controls that are in place. The US doesn't have those, allowing more of a freedom to practice in our industry.

Anita Brikman: Great. What about on consumer and patient empowerment? How are we doing on that?

Dave Tomasi: Well, that was the second enabler that Judy spoke about and we scored a 2.88 out of four, so a little bit lower than the first enabler. We score well here as the US is rapidly adopting electronic health records and addressing laws that will protect patient information, while also providing consumers access to their own personal data. However, this is still an area of development for the US and we're behind other countries like the UK and China.

In addition, the US is strong on health literacy with educational modules developed by the CDC for children and adults and the use of free websites and ask to disseminate health information and promote health literacy to the public. Health and Human Services also publishes a national action plan to improve health literacy and their Healthy People 2030 plan calls for renewed focus on health literacy.

Anita Brikman: That is such an important topic that we have been really grappling with. Self-care literacy, as Judy said, if we are not reaching people where they are and communicating in accessible terms, then we may be leaving people behind or limiting their access to feel empowered to use self-care, don't you think?

Dave Tomasi: Couldn't agree more. Couple things come to mind on that. Number one is they have to have access to the information. They have to have access. And as importantly, they have to be able to understand it. I know that we've been working on how do we create processes and environments that allow them to get the information, but then also be able to understand it and apply it to themselves and to their family.

Anita Brikman: Judy, do you think this is an issue around the world, not just here in the US? Obviously health literacy is a key component of what the Federation's working on.

Judy Stenmark: Yeah, definitely, Anita, health literacy, self-care literacy as we're calling it now, is just a major issue and I don't think there would be any policymaker or healthcare professional if they're on this chat who would disagree that every country needs to work on enhancing health literacy. The question is, what do we do and how do we do it? It's not just about labeling, but it's about, as Dave said, making information more accessible and, of course, in the language that people need and they need to be able to comprehend and understand, but that could be a whole other CHPA Chat in a way.

Anita Brikman: I'm sure it could be. That's a very good point. Dave, let's get back to the US and that third enabler about stakeholders. How are we doing there?

Dave Tomasi: Yeah. On stakeholder support and adoption, the US scored a 2.74 out of four, so a little bit lower than that second enabler. And it's because the US is hampered in part by various definitions of what does self-care mean. It should include things like self-help, fitness, emotional well-being, et cetera, not just consumer healthcare as we know it. Additionally, trust of OTC medicines is a cornerstone of strength in the US. But trust for dietary supplements while strong amongst users is at times tarnished by a minority of irresponsible marketers of supplement products.

Preventative health is an important part of this enabler, and it's an area where the US lags behind due to increased rates of obesity and the related chronic diseases that follow.

Anita Brikman: Finally, what about health policy? How does the US do there?

Dave Tomasi: Yeah. On this final enabler of self-care health policy, the US scored a 2.45 out of four. This is the lowest score for the US and the US lags behind other countries on this enabler like the UK and Thailand. COVID heightened public awareness of the need for self-care, but it's not yet clear if policymakers recognize the economic benefits despite industry efforts to promote them. In CHPA OTC Value Study, it was determined that for every dollar spent on OTC medicines, the healthcare system saves $7, so seven to one ratio, in savings versus dollar spent.

On the positive side, HSA and FSA accounts now allow pre-tax funds to be used for purchasing OTC products and certain devices. That's new this year. A few states are also trying to pass OTC sales tax exemptions, for example, but there isn't a unified national policy for this or other policies that could support further self-care.

Anita Brikman: Now, Judy, the index looked at 10 countries. Where are the greatest disparities? And how does this information that you uncovered by the index help us address those?

Judy Stenmark: It is difficult to compare things across the board and the availability of OTCs, for example, and access to OTCs and other self-care products varies markedly across the country. The other big thing is a wide disparity we found in regulatory environments. Again, we saw that few countries such as the US have a very supportive environment for self-care. And in contrast, other countries like France, for example, have less supportive environment and very strict rules in terms of classification, access.

There were some of the areas, if you like, where we found big disparities, but I guess one of the things that was fairly even across the board was the need for people to become active self-managers of their health and for healthcare professionals and policymakers to recognize that people need to be empowered and that self-care or health literacy is extremely important.

Anita Brikman: I love that you brought this back to people, Judy, because that's what is at the heart of all of this. I know that you all launched a social media campaign to encourage people to make their self-care promises. Baths, hot baths, bubble baths, definitely top of my list, but also making sure I keep track of my fitness and get those steps in every day. But what was the thinking behind the Self-Care Promise campaign?

Judy Stenmark: Okay, so we launched the Self-Care Promise campaign, which was an interactive campaign, our first ever, we launched that during International Self-Care Month and on International Self-Care Day, which is July 24 every year, and kind of as a lead in, if you like, a teaser to the index launch. What we were really trying to do was get individuals to think about what self-care means to them and how we can all become better self-managers of our health.

That was really the thinking behind it and getting people talking about self-care and getting people excited about self-care. That was really why we started that, but we're going to continue that. It'll morph change a bit, but we'll continue that each International Self-Care Day.

Anita Brikman: Now, Dave, I know Bayer has worked very closely with the Global Self-Care Federation on this effort, given that Heiko Schipper of Bayer serves as chair of the Federation. What do you think the calls to action are for industry coming out of this index?

Dave Tomasi: Yeah, great question, Anita. One of the most eye-popping transformations that happened over the last two years during COVID was the increased role of personal health ownership. We're all trying to live healthier than we did two years ago. Before the pandemic, most people didn't put the same stock in the care we gave ourselves at home to prevent and treat illness, but the pandemic has empowered all of us to take control of our self-care.

The Self-Care Readiness Index serves as a great blueprint for how we can work together to do this and create systems that focus on well care, not just sick care. It gives valuable information and recommendations on how we can expand healthcare to include self-care through stakeholder support and adoption, consumer and patient empowerment, and even health policy and the regulatory environment. I think one of the biggest calls to action is that it isn't something any one entity can do alone. We have to work together as an industry to help people take better care of themselves.

As an example from Bayer, my company, that brings all of the learnings from the Self-Care Readiness Index together in a program we launched called the Nutrient Gap Initiative. This is our commitment to expand access to vitamins and minerals for 50 million people annually in underserved communities by 2030. We're starting with prenatal vitamins since women and children are among the most vulnerable of our population.

Anita Brikman: Judy, what's next for this index? Is this something that you all are going to be doing year after year as a benchmark type of an index, a report?

Judy Stenmark: Yeah, definitely, Anita. We've just launched phase one and we're doing a lot of work around that engagement with stakeholders, policymakers, WHO, especially as our partner, if you like, on this initiative. We just started working on phase two planning, and we'll have another lot of 10 countries covering each region, each WHO region in fact, around the world. And then we'll be able to compare, if you like, on a certain level phase one to phase two, and what we're really looking at as well this year is developing the policy tools that go with each of these indexes, indices, and phases, if you like.

Anita Brikman: That sounds like a great plan. Now, I know during the Self-Care Promise campaign, you asked us all to get personal, and I can't wrap up this episode without asking each of you, Judy, Dave, what are your self-care promises? Judy, let's start with you.

Judy Stenmark: Well, mine's been filmed, so I can't deviate from what I promised. My promise was to aim for 12,000 steps a day, but also to utilize more health apps to really keep me motivated because I think that's really important. We can really take advantage of all these fabulous tools we've got and devices and apps that can really help us in terms of managing and motivating.

Anita Brikman: Well, clearly, Judy, more to come year after year. This is exciting momentum. Dave, what do you see as the future of self-care? I'm going to hit you with the same question I hit Judy with, what about you personally? That's a two part question for you to wrap up this podcast.

Dave Tomasi: Well, first, I believe that people are very eager for self-care. This is increasing as we face the particular challenges over the last year and through the entire pandemic. What we at Bayer want to do is link the desire for self-care with helpful information for consumers that have little access to that health literacy options today. This has been a goal for Bayer in our efforts for Health for All, Hunger for None and the Nutrient Gap Initiatives. These are actions we are taking to help enable this.

We're also going to continue to educate policymakers and opinion leaders on the fact that the work they have done recently on self-care, things like the monograph reform and the HSA, FSA OTC reimbursement, is important to consumers and to the rising healthcare prices we see every day as we watch the news. We will also continue to push for additional reforms that will improve the health of Americans and their access to important medications, as well as save money for government systems.

On a personal level, I'm focused on improving fitness and diet. That's what's part of my self-care journey. It's something that I'm not only doing for myself, but I'm also trying to influence my entire family to do with me. We've done it through the pandemic and we're trying to carry that into a post-pandemic lifestyle.

Anita Brikman: What maybe a silver lining, right, from the pandemic if we all do start to focus more on self-care and taking that personal time for our fitness, for our emotional and psychological well-being. I think that is at the crux of self-care. Judy, Dave, thank you both for being here to discuss the launch of this index. And as we said earlier, more to come. I'm Anita Brikman, and this is CHPA Chat.

Audio: Thank you for joining us here at CHPA Chat. For more information and to hear our entire catalog of shows, please visit


Judy Stenmark Headshot
Judy Stenmark
Director General, Global Self-Care Federation
David Tomasi Headshot
David Tomasi
Chief Commercial Officer, North America, Bayer Consumer Health

The views expressed in this podcast are solely those of the speaker and do not necessarily represent the opinions of the Consumer Healthcare Products Association.

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