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By Dr Pete Smith, GP in Kingston and Self Care Forum Co-chair
Learning self care skills from an early age is important in encouraging children to want to live healthy lifestyles and to learn about basic ideas about health looking after yourself and self reliance. This can give them the grounding to prepare them for dealing with bigger issues in later life.
It is an important part of what we call health literacy, providing children with the knowledge that will help them understand their health and its importance as they grow.
The ideas below might seem obvious, but often self care at this age is pretty simple though it may not be recognized as such.
Eating healthily and as a family and having regular meals together rather than snacks and only having sweets as special treats. Get kids used to having fruit and other snacks as treats and avoid sugary drinks completely.
Having busy lives can make it difficult but simple things like walking to the shops and trying to encourage babies and children to be active, as much as possible.
Babies in their first year might be encouraged to choose healthy foods and start to copy parents by washing their hands after a meal and holding a toothbrush to imitate parents.
As they grow through their second year these could be further encouraged along with importance of hygiene by learning to wash their hands independently and by joining in washing themselves and brushing their own teeth before bedtime.
Learning about the general need for cleanliness and hygiene can be helped by encouraging children to put dirty clothes in a wash basket (if that’s what you do) and helping wash up after meals. Mentioning cleaning off germs can be a good way of exploring the eventual question ‘why?’
The need for active lifestyle can be encouraged through getting children involved in parental exercise, even when it is just going for a regular walk or playing a game outside.
Older toddlers could be encouraged to brush their own hair and choose their own healthy food from the fridge. Again basic ideas about healthy bones and teeth can help with the question ‘why?’
Encouraging independent washing of hands and face is helped if soaps and towels are within reach.
When a child has a cold or other self-limiting condition, encouraging children to see that it is possible to look after one another and make things better without necessarily having to go to a GP.
Even learning the home phone number, address and emergency numbers are an important part of self care and understanding.
There is so much we can do to encourage healthy behavior and activity from an early age!
The Self Care Forum joined with the Royal College of General Practitioners and PAGB (the consumer healthcare industry representative) to produce an infographic quantifying some of the savings people and general practices can realise through greater self care.
New figures published ahead of Self Care Week (13-19 November) show that nearly half of UK adults (47.7%) need help to self care for self-treatable conditions.
According to new research, commissioned by the Self Care Forum, people need more information about common symptoms of self-treatable conditions and how long they should expect the symptoms to last before they feel better.
People would also like more information about which medicines they can buy to treat their symptoms and how to use those medicines appropriately.
Evidence shows there are 57 million GP appointments and 3.7 million visits to A&E each year for self-treatable conditions, which suggests this lack of information is driving people to seek advice from a doctor. However, all the information people need is readily available from their local community pharmacy.
Dr Pete Smith, Self Care Forum Co-Chair, said: “As a GP I regularly see patients in my surgery who are only there for advice or information that they could have got from their local pharmacy. We have been told to expect high levels of colds and flu this winter, so it is vital we do more to give people enough information to help them to self care when appropriate, and to know when things are more serious so they do need to see a doctor.
“The Self Care Forum has produced a range of factsheets to help GPs and pharmacists talk through the symptoms of common self-treatable conditions with people to give them the information they are telling us they need.”
Dr Selwyn Hodge, Self Care Forum Co-Chair, said: “These results highlight the worryingly low levels of health literacy in the UK. While we are becoming an information-rich society, this is not being matched by people’s levels of understanding about health issues – and searching for information and advice on health conditions online often leaves people more confused or concerned.
“We believe that health education should become a statutory part of the curriculum from nursery through to sixth form. This would make real inroads into improving people’s health literacy and help reduce unnecessary demands on the NHS by encouraging appropriate self care.”
Welcoming Self Care Week, Health Minister Steve Brine said “We know GPs are busier than ever, but around a third of appointments are unnecessary, so any initiatives to provide easily accessible information on self-care will help to relieve pressure on GPs.
“Community pharmacists are a great source of knowledge and can offer informed guidance to those seeking treatment for a number of minor ailments, which is why Public Health England and NHS England will again be running its ‘Stay Well this Winter’ campaign encouraging people to use their community pharmacy first.”
Notes to Editors:
The Self Care Forum is a UK charity which aims to further the reach of self care and embed it into everyday life. www.selfcareforum.org
The Self Care Forum factsheets cover 14 self-treatable conditions and are available free of charge here: http://www.selfcareforum.org/fact-sheets/
Self Care Week is an annual initiative to raise awareness of self care. The theme for Self Care Week 2017 (13-19 November) is “Embracing Self Care for Life”.
Survey of 2,000 UK adults carried out by 3Gem, October 2017:
- What, if anything, do you need to be able to self care for self-treatable conditions?
|Nothing, I always self care for self-treatable conditions
|More information about common symptoms of self-treatable conditions
|More information on how long self-treatable conditions should last before I feel better
|More information about what medicines I can buy to treat my symptoms
|More information about how to use/take over-the-counter medicines
|Advice from a doctor, they are the only professionals I trust to advise me about my health
|Advice from friends and family
|Advice from a pharmacist
|Over-the-counter medicines to be cheaper so I can afford them
Stay Well This Winter is organised by Public Health England and NHS England and is an integrated multi channel campaign, aimed to ease seasonal pressure on NHS urgent care and emergency services.
For more information, please contact Libby Whittaker, firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 7421 9318.
The Self Care Forum introduced the Self Care Week Awards in 2015 to celebrate the Self Care Week excellence that takes place up and down the country in a bid to raise awareness about the benefits of self care and to engage and empower people to look after their physical health and mental wellbeing. Each year the standard increases and the numbers of participants increase ensuring Self Care Week goes from strength to strength each year. For their inspirational and innovative work during Self Care Week 2016, three localities were presented with awards during the Annual Self Care Conference in September 2017.
Award Winners: Walsall Clinical Commissioning Group, for their collaborative work with local schools and colleges in empowering young people in their health.
Award Innovators: Pershore and Upton GP Local Cluster, for their collaborative work with their Patient Reference Group and voluntary sector partners to plan a Year of Self Care activities locally.
Award Innovators: Mid Essex Clinical Commissioning Group, for their Live Well campaign to involve local people in discussions about their health and care on how to Live Well.
By Alex Teckkam, Codes of Practice Assessor at PAGB
The years in spent education are some of the most important of your life. This is the time where you should learn the skills, knowledge and confidence to be able to care for yourself and others in the wider world. But despite the packed curriculums, there are concerns that young people leaving the education system are lacking the health literacy to help them do just that – look after themselves.
Health literacy is key in empowering people to confidently make healthy life choices. Without the ability to obtain, process and understand health materials, is it really surprising that people struggle to choose appropriate NHS services? How can we expect individuals to take steps to prevent long term conditions, or to know when to or when not to visit the GP, if they do not have the skills to confidently access or use health information or services?
So how big is this problem in the UK?
Well, recent research suggests that between 43% and 61% of the working population in England do not have the knowledge to understand and apply health information. In 2015 we know that an estimated 42% of 18-24 year olds were recurrent users of A&E, despite recent NHS campaigns aimed at reducing A&E attendance.
We also know that low health literacy has a significant negative impact on health. People with low levels of functional health literacy are more likely to lead unhealthy lifestyles, to suffer from long-term health conditions and have a higher mortality. It also affects a person’s ability to confidently interact with NHS services or staff. This is of growing importance, with an ever-increasing emphasis on shared decision making and patient participation within the NHS. It is clear that people need functioning health literacy in order to make confident decisions about their own health.
This low level of health literacy has an impact on the NHS as well as the individual. It is estimated that the issue costs 3% to 5% of the annual UK health budget, with a £2.3 billion spend alone resulting from people using an inappropriate NHS service for their self treatable conditions. With the growing pressure on NHS resources, it is clear we cannot afford to ignore this problem.
Social prescribing, which is sometimes known as community referral, is, according to the King’s Fund, a means of enabling GPs, nurses and other primary care professionals to refer people to a range of local, non-clinical services.
It’s aim is to support individuals to take greater control of their own health and seeks to address people’s needs in a holistic way.
Increasingly, primary care organisations are seeing the benefits of incorporating social prescribing approaches as a means of supporting people’s health and wellbeing.
In 2010, the Self Care Forum produced a case study highlighting the work by Bromley-by-Bow Health Centre in East London. One of the earliest and best-known social prescribing projects, staff there work with patients, often over several sessions, to help them get involved in more than 30 local services ranging from swimming lessons to legal advice and here is a case study of their work.
At the Annual Self Care Conference in 2017, Professor Chris Drinkwater presented the excellent work taking place in the North of England led by Ways to Wellness, a charitable foundation in Newcastle West. Their social prescribing project provides local people with long term condition with individual link workers to help them identify and work to overcome their barriers to managing their health.
Further details about the Ways to Wellness project can be found here.
The aim of the Self Care Forum is to further the reach of self care and embed it into everyday life. We see self care as a continuum and want everyone to be fully health literate; to understand how to self-treat common conditions, self-manage long term conditions and know how to prevent lifestyle-driven illness.
With this in mind we would like to hear from people-facing organisations on how we can add value to the work you are doing to empower people to self care and increase levels of health literacy in the population.
We would very much appreciate you taking the time to answer the following questions:
- What are your self care aims and objectives and how can we help with these?
- If anything was possible, what would you want from the Self Care Forum?
- Where do you go now for support on how to empower people to self care?
Please do email us with your response.
2016’s Self Care Week Showed a Marked Improvement in Self Care Activity
An evaluation of Self Care Week in 2016, which has been running since 2009, showed last year’s efforts were bigger and better than those of the previous year.
In fact, year on year, Self Care Week improves markedly with more local organisations, national organisations and more press coverage promoting, supporting and covering Self Care Week and so extending its reach and its chances of helping people look after their health.
In addition to the vast amount of local activity in communities during Self Care Week, a parliamentary debate took place in the House of Commons with Sir Kevin Barron MP concluding “self care and preventive healthcare will be crucial to the future of the nation and its people.”
Commenting on the results of the Self Care Week evaluation, co-chair, GP Dr Pete Smith said “we are delighted with the enthusiasm, excitement and dedication shown by a wide range of individuals and organisations during Self Care Week in supporting and encouraging people to take better care of their physical health and mental wellbeing, and we very much hope that this passion and action continues throughout the year too.”
This year’s Self Care Week, entitled “Embracing Self Care for Life” has the theme of engaging and empowering people.
Here is an infographic with Self Care Week 2016’s headline news.
Year of Self Care Report by Bracknell Forest.
Sir Kevin Barron MP led on a Self Care Week Debate
Self Care Week was the topic of a debate in parliament on 22 November 2016 led by Sir Kevin Barron MP, co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Primary Care and Public Health and long-time champion and campaigner on issues of public health. Referring to Self Care Week as “excellent” he spoke of it going from strength to strength with the growing number of local and regional health organisations using it to support and educate people in their health. He also used the debate to highlight recommendations from the APPG’s latest inquiry which looked at aspects of the Five Year Forward View, and spoke of the need for a National Self Care Strategy led by a Government Minister and National Director to drive forward a programme of work to help empower people in their own health.
Health Minister David Mowat, who was also taking part in the debate, recognised “the moment for self care has arrived.” He acknowledged “the Self Care Forum has been doing a lot of work in this area for a number of years,” and, responding to Sir Kevin’s call for a national self care strategy the Minister said “my general learning point would be that we need fewer strategies and more implementable plans.”
Health Spokesperson, Sharon Hodgson MP also provided a view from the Opposition (Labour) during the debate saying “the NHS is a trusted bastion, but sadly we are seeing more and more people accessing NHS services when there is no need and when a chat to one of our excellent community pharmacists would have sufficed” and “self care is a crucial preventive measure that must be developed further to ensure that the NHS is as resilient as possible and can respond in more effective and meaningful ways to the nation’s health.”
Self Care Week Award Winners
Self Care Week has gone from strength to strength in the last few years with innovative collaborations and inspiring initiatives designed to help empower people to look after their own health better. This is why the Self Care Forum introduced the Self Care Week Awards in 2015 and, during the Self Care Conference in September, Award Winners, including a Highly Commended, were presented with certificates and a £500 bursary by the Self Care Forum co-chairs, Dr Pete Smith and Dr Selwyn Hodge.
Those winners are:
Yorkshire: City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council, Bradford City CCG, Bradford Districts CCG, Airedale, Wharfedale and Craven CCG
Bracknell: Bracknell and Ascot CCG, Bracknell Forest Council and,
Skipton: Dyneley House Surgery (Highly Commended).