Insights That Ignite Action to Advance Self-Care

By Kimberly Whipkey, White Ribbon Alliance; Elesha Kingshott, Global Advocacy and Communications Consultant; and Stephanie A. Kim, Population Services International

As we rang in 2022, the world still found itself in the grips of the COVID-19 pandemic, now in its third year. The pandemic continues to further exacerbate inequalities in accessing quality health care. 

The need for fundamental transformation in our health systems has never been more apparent. With new variants emerging, countries need to strengthen their health systems to be resilient in the face of future pandemics. And self-care must be a part of the solution. 

Broadly defined as the ability to manage one’s own health with or without provider support, self-care can make healthcare more accessible, equitable, and user-friendly. Individuals can better manage their own health, strains on the health system are reduced, and health outcomes are improved. Countries can be better equipped to achieve universal health coverage (UHC) by improving access to health services through the increased use and effective practice of self-care.

Across the world, implementers, researchers, advocates, policymakers, and donors have been advancing self-care interventions and approaches. And last year, the Self-Care Learning and Discovery Series brought together these self-care champions to share evidence, best practices, and lessons learned. 

Speakers explored how we can expand access to self-care and ensure it’s an essential part of UHC. We’ve compiled a list of provocative questions and points that speakers raised during the series. Below are five points for the self-care community to consider:

  • In the quest to create an enabling legal and policy environment for self-care, are we proposing a new self-care paradigm that is more emancipatory and different from existing laws, or continues to work within the status quo? The law not only needs to be reformed to remove harmful and punitive measures that prohibit many forms of self-care, but it also needs to be reimagined to consider how self-care can be recognized as a right of all individuals.
  • How can we meaningfully ensure a focus on equity so that a new divide is not created because some segments of the population are left behind because of lack of access to self-care products and approaches? For example, digital technologies should not lead to another layer of exclusion in our self-care efforts.
  • How do we change the mindset especially among policymakers and providers that women cannot be trusted to manage self-care? We know that women can practice self-care safely and effectively, including safe abortions, and that trust and respect is a key ingredient in any self-care model. 
  • What strategies can we employ so that patients are seen as the experts and healthcare providers really listen to them? Developing trust, involving patients in their plan of care, empowering patients to self-assess—these are the types of things that build skills and confidence among patients to practice self-care.
  • Self-care is a key driver of bodily autonomy, but at the same time it can be seen as decreasing the accountability of decision-makers to their citizens. Who ultimately is responsible for public health?

Are you interested in learning how self-care champions are navigating these challenges, exploring these questions, and helping find creative solutions? 

Read the full Self-Care Learning and Discovery Series (2021): Insights that Ignite report here to learn about promising self-care practices and gain access to a tool to inform and ignite action to advance self-care in any context. 

Be sure to join the Self-Care Trailblazer Group to gain access to a host of opportunities that include  learning exchanges, advocacy and communication efforts, and a members-only platform to engage with other self-care experts and stakeholders! Members are invited to participate in working groups to help inform and drive the self-care agenda globally, nationally, and locally. 

Don’t miss out on all of this and more – become a member of the Self-Care Trailblazer Group today!