International Self-Care Day and Beyond! Building Health Systems Better for Tomorrow

Tomorrow, July 24th marks International Self-Care Day, an annual opportunity to put a spotlight on self-care and the benefits that effective self-care can bring to both individuals and health systems as a vital foundation of health care. Throughout the month of July, we’ve amplified the importance of making quality self-care interventions available, affordable, acceptable and accessible to all those who need them.

Although self-care is not a new concept, there are a myriad of new and improved tools and practices—from drugs, devices and diagnostics to digital health—that allow individuals to participate in different of aspects of their health care in ways that were not accessible in the past.   

The term “self-care” can mean different things to different people. What it means for the Self-Care Trailblazer Group is that people are able to identify their own health needs, to access appropriate health technologies and to effectively manage their health conditions, including seeking health services and professional help when necessary.

As we continue to face this global pandemic, we have an unprecedented opportunity to reimagine our health care systems and believe that self-care can play an important role in the future. As COVID-19 continues to spread across the globe, it has presented us with a chance to transform the status quo, shore up stressed health care systems and build a better health system for tomorrow.

One way to do this is through self-care interventions for health. To drive healthier outcomes during the COVID-19 crisis, every lever available must be used to increase access to needed services, information, technology and tools. This includes equipping, empowering and encouraging people to meet their own health needs through self-care.

This week, leaders across many sectors told us why they believe self-care can and will build #better4tomorrow. From Ministry of Health officials, to implementers, to advocates and consumers, these voices all tell a different story around the importance of self-care, all with the same underlying theme: that self-care can relieve the pressure on our health professionals and place power in the hands of individuals as they make decisions about their health.

Self-care interventions are particularly effective in the field of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) given the deeply personal nature of sexuality and reproduction, as well as the stigma and barriers individuals can face in accessing information, products and services. Exciting developments and an expanded array of user-centered sexual and reproductive health products and practices are being introduced and scaled up for use.

Encouraging, preparing and supporting women, girls and key and vulnerable populations to have greater control and decision-making in their sexual and reproductive health care creates multiple benefits not only for themselves, but also potentially for health systems. And for health systems to take full advantage of this, governments and policy makers need to ensure that there is deliberate integration of self-care into health policy, programming and practice.

We’re already seeing momentum in different health systems, including countries like Uganda, Nigeria and Senegal working on plans to take theWHO Consolidated Guideline for Self-Care and key interventions to scale. 

 We know that the future of our healthcare systems would have placed self-care at the forefront, even without this sudden shift due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However this pandemic has presented an opportunity to propel self-care forward, as policy makers and global health experts work to create stronger health systems and public health capacity to fight back against this novel virus.

Self-care has come a long way and will continue to evolve. This International Self-Care Day—and beyond— join us in amplifying the added value of self-care interventions and build #better4tomorrow.

To celebrate International Self-Care Day with us, find our toolkit here!