May 27, 2024

Self-care Technologies Transforming Global Wellness

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn

Self-care Approaches in a New Normal

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that about 4.3 billion people have insufficient access to basic healthcare facilities and services. By 2030, it is estimated that the world will be short 18 million healthcare workers to meet the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) goals. Furthermore, ongoing humanitarian crises, climate change, pandemics such as COVID-19, and political conflicts have adversely impacted the global reach of healthcare products and services, leading to poor health conditions in affected regions. Hence, self-care practices and interventions by individuals and communities have the potential to reduce the pressure on global healthcare systems by encouraging people to take active ownership of their health.

Self-care is a proactive and customized practice to establish and maintain an individual’s holistic health and wellness, as well as a key enabler to prevent and manage diseases. Self-care encompasses physical, mental, emotional, social, and environmental approaches to enhance an individual’s well-being. Self-care practices and interventions can empower people and communities with the agency to maintain and enhance their health and prevent and manage illnesses. Self-care can often be complemented with products and services from professional healthcare providers, such as physicians, nurses, and healthcare centers, as needed, to improve the well-being of the end user. Self-care will not replace global healthcare systems or practices but will help enhance existing systems to achieve UHC.

Self-care practices and interventions are built on the following pillars:

  1. Physical Self-care: Physical self-care practices and interventions comprise technologies, products, and services that enhance physical well-being. These could include dietary and nutritional enhancements that improve immune health. Gut microbiome-based technologies, such as the use of probiotics in supplements, food and beverages, can enhance overall immunity and decrease the propensity of allergies and infections. A recent global survey conducted by Chr. Hansen, Denmark, revealed that 75% of the global population was aware of probiotics and about 50% of consumers were familiar with gut microbiome. High consumer awareness is likely to increase the adoption of self-care products, especially the consumption of microbiome-based supplements or dietary products to enhance immunity. The renewed focus on immune health will also likely fuel new innovations in this segment. Not surprisingly, the patent publication landscape for hand sanitizers witnessed a spike during 2020-2021 at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, reflecting increased innovator activity in this space. Apart from heightened consumer awareness and the rising innovation landscape for physical self-care technologies, personalized product and services platforms will also define the future of the global self-care sector. For instance, BlueprintFit offers biomarker-testing strategies to enable personalized nutrition solutions. Holistic physical self-care will typically comprise multiple elements from the diet, self-monitoring devices and trackers, OTC medications, skin, hair & oral care, and indoor hygiene and wellness segments.
  2. Mental Self-care: The COVID-19 pandemic had an adverse impact on mental wellness. The WHO reported that depression and anxiety increased by over 25% in 2020. Despite being years into the pandemic, about 44% of countries continue to witness disruptions in mental healthcare services. Fortunately, the pandemic also accelerated the development and launch of digital mental self-care platforms. While there are several mental wellness apps that are accessible to global users today, only a few have scientific and/or research backing. For instance, The Headspace app is one of the few apps backed by multiple research publications that state the app can alleviate stress, blood pressure, anxiety, and depression symptoms. Additionally, learning and development activities such as learning a new skill, solving puzzles, gaming, reading/listening, practicing meditation, and mindfulness also promote mental well-being. Such self-care digital apps combined with professional mental health support (across in-person or remote settings) have the potential to transform mental wellness in the future.
  3. Emotional Self-care: While mental health enables you to think logically, emotional well-being provides the strength to manage emotional responses to situations and/or people. Several factors regulate emotional wellness, including age, gender, self-perception, socioeconomic status, work, education, and cultural environment. Although emotional well-being is critically important for holistic wellness in individuals, this self-care segment is underexplored from technological, application and interventional perspectives. Self-care practices, such as journaling, exploring additional interests in fine arts, or creative blogging have a positive impact on emotional health. Thus, it is important to encourage active emotional self-care across professional and personal settings.
  4. Social Self-care: The COVID-19 pandemic has had an adverse impact on social health due to self-isolation norms that have still not been fully relaxed across the world. Professional and personal socializing has been severely restricted globally, which adversely impacts overall well-being. However, technology helped bridge the gaps in social networking with the help of online meeting apps. Furthermore, several employers have encouraged people to practice self-care, enabling better work-life balance by providing remote working, mandatory time off, and online counseling access for improved stress management.
  5. Environmental Care: Due to pandemic-driven global lockdowns and worldwide self-isolation protocols, there has been a renewed focus on indoor air environments and hygiene practices. Microbiome-based technologies have also been explored to improve heating, ventilation, and air conditioning indoors. Technologies that can re-create a healthy outdoor environment within closed spaces are likely to be adopted more frequently. For instance, humidifiers infused with a steady stream of healthy microbiota help decrease allergies and pathogenic infections. Such technologies will have a growing demand in the coming years. Thus, indoor environmental care will also contribute to the overall well-being of individuals.

Physical Self-care Approaches: Connected and Customized Wellness Platforms

Physical self-care is the most well-defined and structured segment, backed by decades of R&D. Accelerated digitization helped integrate different facets of physical self-care practices, especially during the pandemic, and enabled people to take stronger control over their personal wellness. Here’s a deeper look into physical self-care aspects:

  1. Diet, Nutrition & Immunity: Several factors can impact immune health, such as nutrition, gut biome, infections, genetics, illness medication, time of day, smoking, alcohol consumption, exercise, stress, age, and body weight. However, there is rising adoption of gut microbiome and dietary technologies that help enhance immunity. Nestle, DuPont, and DSM are some of the key innovators that leverage prebiotics, probiotics, synbiotics, and postbiotic platforms to develop microbiome-based formulations for several F&B, DTC, and therapeutic applications. Interestingly, SMART nutrition technologies have been able to customize diet and nutrition to suit a person’s needs. For instance, NutriBullet Balance allows a blender to be connected to a smart device such as a phone or tablet using apps and provides real-time updates on nutrition data, which enables improved diet management.
  2. Self-care Devices: Advances in self-monitoring platforms enabled real-time tracking of physical and physiological parameters in a user-friendly manner. There are several devices and apps that help individual monitoring of sleep, exercise, and metabolic and cardiovascular indicators. People can integrate different aspects of self-care devices to derive actionable insights for improving daily well-being. For instance, Samsung launched Galaxy Watch5, which offers advanced sleep coaching and bioactive sensors to track wellness goals in real time. Qualcomm offers the Snapdragon Wear™ platforms, which include smart apparel, smart shoes, and other products to track sleep and exercise activities.
  3. OTC Medications: While the technologies and innovation in the OTC sector have largely remained the same, their use has increased during the pandemic. The use of hand sanitizers also increased exponentially during the pandemic. Novel bottle designs, such as the use of touch-free sensors, were in high demand and adopted worldwide.
  4. Skin, Hair & Oral Care: There is a rising focus on holistic skin, hair, and oral care, beyond the traditional cosmetic applications. Ingredient formulators are increasingly conscious about using clean, sustainable, and preferably naturally sourced formulations to enhance skin, hair, and oral health. For instance, there is growing use of topical Bakuchiol compositions to manage skin health.

The Final Word

While it is evident that self-care will be a critical enabler for public health equity, there is a great need to promote health literacy. Research has shown that low health literacy rates have been associated with higher healthcare costs and suboptimal health outlooks. Public and private healthcare consortia and companies should focus on methods to improve global awareness of self-care practices. Consumer and healthcare service providers should actively endorse the use of such technologies and apps to empower and guide people toward self-health management and disease prevention practices.

Technologies and apps that aid medication adherence, physical monitoring, physiological metric tracking and diet control are the leading technologies in the self-care space. Mental wellness technologies and applications will also gain traction in the next five years. Additionally, there is a growing likelihood of convergence and meaningful crosstalk across diverse self-care technologies that will enable customized and comprehensive wellness insights for people globally. For instance, mobile and home devices that track health and medication can communicate with healthcare providers for medical recommendations that will improve and maintain an individual’s health and immunity, helping a paradigm shift toward preventive healthcare strategies.

Self-care must form a core offering within public and private healthcare policies globally. Consumer wellness companies should redesign their marketing strategies to promote holistic self-care-based wellness products and services and ensure the claims are backed by scientific and clinical research to enable greater consumer trust and adoption. Country-level self-care policies should be customized based on local research that provides a deep understanding of the relationship between an individual and self-care practices in their community settings. As self-care is a rapidly evolving segment, it is imperative that novel technologies, products, and services are developed using customized, evidence-based research. Additionally, the focus on the long-term vision and individual wellness outlook will help develop targeted strategies for robust self-care technologies. Thus, physical, mental, emotional, social, and environmental self-care practices can be a potential game-changer in transforming the world’s health outlook.

Blog from Vandana Iyer, Frost & Sullivan

Share.

RELATED POSTS

Navigating the financial derivative market in the UAE
Navigating the financial derivative market in the UAE
Green Maritime: The Path to Sustainable Logistics
Green Maritime: The Path to Sustainable Logistics
real estate
Saudi Real Estate: A Global Transformation and Opportunity
  • Tamkeen Insurance
  • Telcotech

LATEST POSTS

Event partnership
Image used for illustrative purpose
This MOU outlines a three-year program aimed at integrating AI into the fabric of our economic and social ecosystems, creating a sustainable, tech-driven future. Image Courtesy- ITIDA
Masraf Al Rayan x Google Cloud agreement signing ceremony. Image Courtesy-Masraf Al Rayan