Self-Care is Healthcare for Everyday People

Patients are the new healthcare payors, and as such, taking on the role of health consumers.

In fact, health and wellness consumers have existed since a person purchased the first toothpaste, aspirin, heating pad, and moisturizing cream at retail.

Or consulted with their neighborhood herbalista, homeopathic practitioner, therapeutic masseuse, or skin aesthetician.

Today, the health and wellness consumer can DIY all of these things at home through a huge array of products available in pharmacies, supermarkets, Big Box stores, cosmetic superstores, convenience and dollar stores, and other retail channels – increasingly, online (THINK, of course, of Amazon — more on the A-word in the Hot Points below).

Self-care for health goes back to the beginning of time, really, to parents’ and grandparents’ and tribal leaders and community health workers sharing kitchen-table wisdom on healing tactics, herbs and natural-occurring products, time-tested, evidence-based lifestyle choices and traditional and ethnic rituals.

What’s so old is new again, in the forms of turmeric gummies and charcoal-infused masks, corn starch-based toothbrushes and bath bombs infused with aromatherapeutic natural ingredients. I find all of these, and more, at the Health-Beauty-Wellness Conference convened by GMDC in Orlando this week through the weekend.

Health, beauty and wellness suppliers and retailers (HBW for short) have assembled to connect, collaborate, create, and drive commerce by scratching consumers’ collective itch for being healthy.

This is my first of several posts discussing the self-care retail health phenomenon among consumers, and the business opportunity, as I’m spending the weekend with suppliers and retailers attending this meeting.

Some context: GMDC plays a Switzerland-like role, an association for all HBW comers, bringing together competing organizations from both the supply/product and retail communities. On the supply side are the brands you find in front of the pharmacy and in health-and-beauty aisles, from companies like Burt’s Bees and Bayer Consumer Health, Colgate-Palmolive and Unilever, as well as smaller firms such as Tweezerman, KT Health and Boiron (which has made homeopathic medicines understandable and accessible to Everyday People). This is also a global community, with products emerging from, for example, Korea with its innovations in skin care.

GMDC is a kind of Match.com, VP Insights & Communications Mark Melchese described to me, providing a meeting ground where folks who make and market HBW products and the organizations who sell these products to consumers can find each other.

Over 200 companies are participating in the meeting this weekend, which brings together attendees in a variety of formats and workflows: these include “slow” face-to-face strategic meetings in quiet rooms between one vendor and one retailer; a fast-paced Wall Street-like trading room environment where retailers meet up for quick introductions to find new and innovative products for next season’s consumer health shelves; a Shark Tank-style session where entrepreneurs with new-new things meet prospective retail store buyers who kick tires on new product ideas; and, education sessions covering market research into HBW trends and prospects.

In my role as health economist-advisor-trend weaver and data junkie, I’ve been collegial with GMDC for a few years. They were generous to invite me to hang out this weekend and observe the various streams of activity, as well as meet with attendees on both the “sell” and “buy” side of the HBW industry. Throughout, I’m wearing my health consumer-focused lens.

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