On the occasion of International Self-Care Day 2021 and WHO Self-Care month, two annual advocacy milestones, The Global Self Care Federation (GSCF) calls on governments and policymakers to take measures to improve the overall integration of self-care into national health policies. Self-care is an essential element of achieving universal health coverage and ensuring better health outcomes for all.
The rapid spread of COVID-19 across the world has been met with encouraging policy responses, including regulatory flexibilities in healthcare systems. We believe more needs to be done to incorporate self-care interventions into health policies “underpinned by the key principles of human rights, ethics and gender equality.”
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), self-care interventions include “evidence-based, high-quality drugs, devices, diagnostics and/or digital interventions that can be provided fully or partially outside formal health services and used with or without a health worker”.
In line with WHO’s Good Practice Statement 7, countries, in collaboration with relevant stakeholders, “should consider implementing and/or extending and strengthening the rational delegation of tasks to individuals, carers and communities, as members of the health team calls upon in effective ways that lead to equitable health outcomes.”
The Global Self-Care Federation urges governments to adopt a framework enabling self-care interventions, as a fundamental component to achieving universal health coverage. Simultaneously, self-care, as a cornerstone of primary healthcare, supports target 3.8 of UN Sustainable Development Goals - to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.
According to WHO, “on average individuals spend less than an hour a year with a health worker versus over 8,700 hours a year in self-care. Self-care interventions promote individuals’ active participation in their own healthcare and are a push towards greater self-determination, self-efficacy, autonomy and engagement in health.” Therefore, self-care should be a part of the healthcare continuum and not only be used as a preventive measure in disease management.
Smart regulations and transparency of processes drive innovations in self-care solutions. Amidst the pandemic, an increased number of individuals began to rely on telehealth and digital healthcare apps in order to maintain their health and practice self-care. To enable people to benefit from technological advancements in healthcare, policymakers should ensure a supportive environment where self-care can be made available safely, and later, scaled up. Policies should be based on a “people-centered” approach to healthcare, where the individuals are not mere consumers of health services but empowered to become active decision-makers in their personal health journeys.
To maximise the benefits policies would bring to the individuals, regulations need to encompass not only health services themselves but also create an enabling environment through increasing health literacy rates. The reform of social services sectors is also needed as, according to WHO, “self-care interventions are mostly accessed and/or used outside formal health services.”
Ultimately, designing resilient health policies with a full integration of self-care delivers better health outcomes for all and contributes to the achievement of SDG 3 which aims to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.
On this International Self-Care Day, let us act on self-care together to create better health outcomes for all.