Integrate self care into health policy

| April 8, 2014

The current health care system is under enormous pressure. Deon Schoombie, Executive Director of the Australian Self Medication Industry, wants a national conversation on how self care can be more fully integrated into our health care policy.

It is now widely acknowledged that Australia’s health care system is not sustainable in its current state. A number of major reports into the health system over recent years have outlined the magnitude of future problems facing the healthcare system. *

They all point to rising health care costs, increasing and unsustainable government expenditure on health, and a system under enormous pressure from growing demand for health services, especially due to the ageing population.

The non-prescription medicines industry is keen to play its role in making meaningful contributions to the development of a sustainable healthcare system.

The role non-prescription medicines can to play in a sustainable healthcare system was demonstrated in a study undertaken by Macquarie University. The study revealed that non-prescription medicines currently save the health economy $10.4 billion, which equates to a saving of four dollars for every one dollar spent on non-prescription medicines.

The study also looked at the potential future benefits that could derive from increasing consumer access to medicines through down-scheduling from prescription to non-prescription medicines. The study showed that if a group of 11 prescription medicines was down-scheduled the health economy would save an additional $2.1 billion.

At ASMI (Australian Self Medication Industry) we work to encourage responsible use of non-prescription medicines as part of a much bigger drive towards greater self care.

Self care is about translating the notion of greater personal responsibility into action by encouraging and empowering consumers to become more informed, more knowledgeable and more engaged in their health and well being.

The vital role of health literate consumers in a modern society cannot be overstated. These individuals consciously and actively pursue healthy lifestyles; they manage common ailments safely and effectively and they appropriately seek professional care when it is necessary.

We believe that self care should be an integral part of a national health policy. Fundamental to the achieving that goal is the formation of strong partnerships between stakeholders – consumers, healthcare professionals, government, health insurers and industry.

A number of stakeholders drawn from different dimensions of the health sector have recently agreed to come together as a Self Care Alliance to facilitate a systematic discussion around the topic of systems and strategies that will move consumers to the centre of their healthcare and to support them to take greater responsibility for their health and well being.

The group comprises a broad spectrum of participants, including GPs, pharmacists, consumers, the medicines industry and educational institutions.

A key aim of the Self Care Alliance will be to provide an authoritative source of information on self care. It will develop innovative thinking on key issues in primary healthcare, formulating policies that could advance self care, advocating to policy makers, facilitating research, and enabling the spread of evidence-based information to the community.

Our hope is that the Self Care Alliance will kick off a national conversation on how self care can be more fully integrated into health care policy and that it will develop into a network of dialogue partners with an interest, knowledge and expertise to contribute to this conversation.


* Healthcare: Reform or ration, Committee for Economic Development of Australia, April 2013.

Australia to 2050; future challenges, Commonwealth Government, 2010.

A healthier future for all Australians, National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission, Final Report, June 2009.