Simplifying self-care for better health
When people think of self-care, they often conjure up images of meditation, yoga, perhaps, even a weekend spa break. While all the former might technically fall under the term, at The Global Self-Care Federation (GSCF) we take a more expansive view of self-care and what it can do for people.
Self-care is the practice of individuals looking after their health using the knowledge and information available to them, in collaboration with healthcare professionals as needed.
When implemented correctly, individuals usually commit to undertaking six key actions:
- Making healthy lifestyle choices: this involves being physically active and eating healthily
- Avoiding unhealthy lifestyle habits: which entails avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption
- Making responsible use of prescription and non-prescription medicines: which can play a key role in self-managing minor/ongoing illnesses
- Self-recognition of symptoms: assessing and addressing symptoms, in partnership with a healthcare professional where necessary
- Self-monitoring: checking for signs of deterioration or improvement
- Self-management: managing symptoms of disease, either alone, in partnership with healthcare professionals, or alongside other people with the same health condition
And so, empowering people to proactively manage their health is at the core of the definition of self-care that we promote. Individuals and their communities have a lot to gain by following these basic tenants. The benefits of self-care range from improved health outcomes to significant cost reductions for households which provides a financial incentive.
In these cases, self-care has offered people a greater availability of effective access to health. Firstly, we know that it affords people with the necessary know-how to manage different health conditions at their convenience. Additionally, costs to individuals and health systems are reduced as people consulting their pharmacist to manage mild conditions, for example.
COVID-19-related challenges facing healthcare systems, will only become increasingly pronounced as an ageing global population with higher cases of chronic diseases will need access to effective healthcare.
Accordingly, we must view self-care as a complementary piece in the arsenal of future healthcare.
GSCF’s forthcoming Self-Care Readiness Index shows that incorporating prevention, health literacy strategies and self-monitoring into national healthcare systems and programs has proven to boast advantages. In Egypt, for example, improvements to public health have been observed on the back of a variety of educational and screening campaigns. While similar benefits have been seen in Thailand where village health volunteer programs have strengthened primary health care through health education and self-care support for more than four decades.
Engaging in self-care has significant upsides for communities and health systems. Policy makers, industry professionals, NGOs and consumers must be bold enough to continue to promote its importance in order to make good on its transformational potential.