It’s time we spoke about self-care in healthcare

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Judy Stenmark, Director General of The Global Self-Care Federation (GSCF), shares her thoughts on the recent disruption to healthcare systems globally. She emphasizes that this is the start of a greater focus on self-care, as we explore new ways to meet patient needs.

July 24th marks the 10th annual International Self-Care Day, which recognizes and promotes the benefits that self-care can bring to both individuals and healthcare systems as a vital foundation of health. Self-care is more crucial than ever in the current context, as the world reimagines healthcare in the lens of the pandemic.

Recognizing the value of self-care

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed health care as we know it — and perhaps for good. The different measures put in place to reduce community transmission of the virus have led healthcare systems around the world to offer remote services, including telehealth consultations and mobile health services. We’ve also witnessed healthcare facilities, like pharmacies, given new powers to dispense medicines without a prescription, modify prescriptions without the permission of a GP, and remain operational 24/7.

These changes, among others, represent a new way of thinking that recognizes the value of self-care practices in the health care industry amid the influx of COVID-19 cases. At the community level, nurses and pharmacists have played a more implicit role in providing accurate information to patients about the proper use of OTC drugs and responsible self-medication, while pharmacies have helped maintain a constant flow of supplies and medicines. At the global level, we see the importance of knowledge transfer supported by international coordination and solidarity, particularly as companies innovate to find solutions to support self-detection of the virus.

Empowering patients

Health literacy and knowledge allows patients to make more informed choices as part of their healthcare management, encouraging treatment, medication and monitoring of symptoms, which when successful typically results in fewer hospital admissions and lower medical costs in the long run. Additionally, healthcare professionals help patients feel empowered to take charge of their health journeys and establish greater trust in health systems to prevent disease and promote well-being.

A look ahead

Beyond the pandemic, I’m excited about the future of self-care and optimistic that it can serve a critical role in alleviating the pressure caused by a growing shortage of health workers globally. I’m also confident that self-care intervention enhanced by digital technology can offer support to the more than 400 million people worldwide who lack essential healthcare services.

As we enter into a new period of recovery, we carry with us a reminder of the fragility of not only our health but our healthcare systems too. A greater focus on self-care can support both of these, helping us to become healthier individuals and stronger communities, and to achieve better health outcomes for all.


First published in IAPO newsletter