Comment: Make self care the public’s New Year’s resolution

Published on: 10 January 2017


Self care needs to be a habit that sticks. What can be done to support this in 2017?

Whether it’s giving up smoking, losing weight, or just committing to a positive change, millions of New Year’s resolutions are made every January, but very few are still in place come spring. Keeping up resolutions for longer than a few weeks can be a challenge – making big lifestyle changes isn’t easy and some people need a little more support than others.

Community pharmacies can play a key role in supporting people during this time of change, providing the necessary encouragement and advice that some people need. However, for many, the pharmacy might not be the first place they think to turn to for this kind of support and advice.

The PAGB’s recent Self Care Nation report1 revealed that despite people regularly visiting a pharmacy to pick up a repeat prescription, the wider health services pharmacies offer, such as smoking cessation, health checks and weight management, are not being utilised.

This doesn’t mean people aren’t willing to self care. On the contrary, 92 per cent1 acknowledge the importance of taking responsibility for their health to ease the burden on the NHS. A recent Sanofi UK Perceptions of Men’s Health survey also found that 70 per cent2 of male respondents would consider visiting pharmacies for health services and testing for conditions, yet only six per cent2 said they currently seek advice from a pharmacist.

It’s clear that more needs to be done to promote these wider services, and pharmacies should be taking every opportunity to talk to customers about how they can support them with their New Year’s resolutions. If they are buying a smoking cessation or weight loss product, be sure to take the time to offer them some advice and let them know that the pharmacy is there for them should they have questions or concerns.

Poor health literacy is a major barrier towards self care and something we need to address further in 2017. As the Reckitt Benckiser Knowledge for Health Survey discovered, 20 per cent3 of people admit they hardly ever or never find it easy to understand the information on a medicine packet and half3 said they would like to see information made simpler and more concise with fewer medical terms. Pharmacy staff have a key role to play in supporting these people to self care by using their expertise to explain medicines use and dosage instructions in a way that customers understand.

So, let’s try and make self care a wide spread New Year’s resolution that everyone sticks to – for 2017 and beyond.

1. Survey with 5,011 UK adults, carried out by Pure Profile on behalf of PAGB. Sept 2016
2. Sanofi UK Perceptions of Men’s Health, 2016. Sanofi data on file.
3. Reckitt Benckiser Knowledge for Health Survey, conducted November 2016. RB data on file