Women as active
agents of their health

HOW SELF-CARE CREATES
STRONGER HEALTH SYSTEMS

Self-care is transformative for people and for health systems. When individuals are informed and active agents in their health, we can achieve improved health outcomes. This is particularly true for women, girls, trans and non-binary people, who need accessible, equitable and user-friendly healthcare that serves their unique needs. Safe and effective self-care solutions not only support individuals to better manage their own health, it also reduces strains on the health system.

Self-care is broadly defined as the ability to manage one’s own health with or without provider support. New diagnostics, devices, drugs and digital health solutions are transforming the way people interact with the health system. Self-Care Trailblazer Group member Saumya Ramarao talks about why self-care is important and how it supports gender equity in healthcare.

Self-Care for
Stronger Health Systems

Driven by deep consumer and market insights, PSI leverages the power of self-care to improve access to health services and better equip health systems to achieve universal health coverage.

From at-home, rapid diagnostic tests to contraceptive self-injection, high-quality drugs, and digital innovations, PSI works in 30+ countries to make quality self-care solutions accessible and in step with formal health delivery systems.

Self-care enables people to take charge of their own health in ways never before possible. But self-care requires major behavior change, including for providers.

Woman's hands holds Sayana Press self-injectable contraception

With funding from the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, PSI’s Delivering Innovation in Self-Care (DISC) project’s innovative Moment of Truth approach enlists providers to drive demand for and scale self-care—starting with contraceptive self-injection. Here’s how.

Igniting a
Self-Care Movement

Change on the ground requires systems-level change, too. Alongside partners, we are igniting a broad-base movement in support of self-care; effectively paving the way for the thoughtful and deliberate integration of self-care into health policy, program and practice.

Under the direction of PSI, the Self-Care Trailblazer Group (SCTG) mobilizes a global, multi-stakeholder movement to expand the safe and effective practice of self-care. The SCTG galvanizes support for self-care through evidence generation, global communications, advocacy and shared learning. Learn more.

A robust evidence base is essential to forming sound policies, designing effective programs across all health areas.

From policy analyses to frameworks on quality of care, digital self-care and social behavior change, the SCTG has developed and contributed to a number of critical resources to support the introduction, scale-up and sustain self-care interventions within health systems.

In June 2021, the Self-Care Learning and Discovery Series brought together experts across global health—in 16 interactive, virtual session—to exchange and incubate ideas, experiences, and solutions on a variety of self-care topics, ranging from mental health to self-care in humanitarian settings.

Self-Care
for All

Enabling environments facilitate the fast-tracking of national policies and programs that unlock self-care's potential and accelerate progress toward universal health coverage.

As we sensitize global and national policymakers to the potential of self-care, we must home in on at least three important issues: how we effectively measure self-care, how we ensure self-care is affordable and how we improve equitable access to self-care. The good news: we’re on it.

In 2020, the Federal Ministry of Health of Nigeria and the Ministry of Health of Uganda pioneered national self-care guidelines—a significant achievement in the journey to more formally recognize self-care practices in health systems. The applicable insights from this process are available for you to use.

25 million unsafe abortions occur every year. The World Health Organization’s new abortion care guideline aims to provide lifesaving care and support self-managed abortion. PSI was among the organizations consulted in the process of developing 50+ evidence-based recommendations.

Andrea Fearneyhough, PSI’s Director of Safe Abortion Programming, shares what the normative guidance means at the global and national levels.

Solutions like HIV self-testing play a critical role in ensuring the continuity of testing services while reducing additional strains on already stretched health systems. And HIV self-testing offers a discreet and convenient way to approach HIV diagnoses, particularly in many high burden settings.

The PSI-led STAR Initiative project has produced crucial insights and evidence on the safety, feasibility, acceptability, impact, and mechanisms for scaling up of HIV self-testing approaches worldwide—providing a foundation from which the potential of other self-care approaches can now be more readily realized.

Much of the past research on the self-injectable contraceptive DMPA-SC focuses on how best to integrate self-injection into reproductive health services—as well the feasibility and safety of the product. While these are certainly important considerations, limited attention has been paid to women’s contraceptive experiences, desires, preferences, and needs. We're changing that.

Project DISC’s Insight Synthesis Report examines self-injection from a “user journey” perspective that breaks down the multitude of considerations facing consumers and providers across five stages.

In Ethiopia, we’re studying health consumers’ and health workers’ experiences with self-injection (DMPA-SC). The hope? That the findings inform the Ethiopian Ministry of Health’s national rollout of DMPA-SC.

To date, PSI Ethiopia has trained 34 public sector health providers to deliver DMPA-SC and distributed 4,000 units of the self-injectable method to 14 health facilities across the country. Learn more.

The expansion of mobile phones, smartphone applications, internet access and artificial intelligence enables people to engage with their own health in new ways. From targeted health messages to self-monitoring tools, digital technology removes barriers to accessing care and plays an integral role in strengthening health systems. Read the research.

Investing in stronger
Consumer-powered health systems

Self-care is not new but we need to work together to make it more widely available in a safe, effective and affordable way. This will require increasing awareness, generating demand and addressing funding, policy, regulatory and other barriers to institutionalize self-care within national health systems.

Join the journey. Contact Sarah Onyango, Self-Care Senior Technical Advisor, to learn more.