Dana Bolden, senior vice president of corporate affairs of the consumer health division of GlaxoSmithKline, led a session entitled Self-Care Index: How does the U.S. Stack Up Against the Rest of the World, examining the Self-Care Index and what it means for the health literacy in the United States.
“As policy makers, we have reached this unique sort of perfect storm to create better policy and understanding around self-care,” he said. “We have the backdrop of COVID-19, where people have realized ok, my health is probably the most important thing I have, and I need to figure out a way to protect that.”
Bolden said people are now noticing disparities within the health care system and recognizing inequality. This, combined with the added stress of the changing workforce demands in a post-COVID-19 world, is creating more needs for self-care.
“Self-care has been clinically proven to reduce or eliminate anxiety, depression, stress, improve concentration, minimize frustration and anger, increase happiness, improve energy and more,” he said. “From a physical health perspective, self-care has been clinically proven to reduce heart disease, stroke and cancer.”
Bolden focused on reflecting on the definition of self-care and the need for better health literacy.
“There is no one common understanding of self-care,” he said.
Bolden went on to share some interesting facts:
- 85% of American consumers expect to change their future purchasing behavior due to COVID-19.
- 75% of the U.S. primary care doctors recommend over-the -counter medications for allergies, pain, cough, cold and stomach upsets.
- 56,000 additional doctors would be required in the U.S. to meet the patient demand if over-the-counter products were not available.
- 92% would seek prescriptions if over-the-counter options were not available.
“Health literacy is probably the biggest betterment we have to improving self-care in the United States,” Bolden said. “How do we provide literacy materials as part of training?”
Bolden said in the U.S., the lack of education surrounding health literacy causes confusion among consumers.
GlaxoSmithKline created a solution, by building out an app that allows consumers to scan a medication and learn exactly if it will help any symptoms they may be experiencing.
Bolden said in addition to health literacy, state regulated insurance plans typically do not provide coverage once medication becomes over the counter.
Bolden encouraged policymakers to find solutions that help educate consumers and encourage coverage for health plans as a solution to understanding self-care.
“We would love to work with you to increase the quality and quantity of self-care information available to consumers. We want to educate and incentivize health care providers,” he said. “One thing we need to understand the role of the pharmacist and look at pharmacists as an extension of the health care provision.”