Self-Care for Health Systems Sustainability: Paving the Way for UHC

By Judy Stenmark, Director General, Global Self-Care Federation

Although the discourse and awareness of self-care has increased recently, the idea of self-care is not a new one. And now, more so than at any point in the past, we have the knowledge and information to support its direct inclusion into healthcare.  We know that embedding self-care practices into health systems improves health and quality of life while simultaneously supporting health systems’ sustainability.

This year’s UHC day theme is “Build the World we Want: A Healthy Future for All.” We at the Global Self-Care Federation (GSCF) see that self-care is indispensable to achieving UHC. That’s why, alongside a coalition of partners, we are calling for a World Health Assembly (WHA) resolution on self-care. 

Self-care refers to the holistic activities, practices, and products—both medicinal, devices, and nutritive—that a person can adopt to improve their health and well-being. In particular, self-care involves:

  • Making healthy lifestyle choices
  • Avoiding unhealthy lifestyle habits
  • Making responsible use of prescription and non-prescription medicines
  • Self-recognition of symptoms
  • Self-monitoring
  • Self-management


For us, ensuring a healthy future for all is centered around affordable, accessible, and quality health services. This unlocks people’s potential. Self-care is a critical component for this and will be a necessary building block for the healthcare systems of the future. 

For this to come to pass, it is time to reconfigure how we see self-care. We need to strengthen overall health systems. The sharp focus of the World Health Organization on universal health coverage (UHC) provides this opportunity.

The strength of self-care as a legitimate healthcare tool needs to be brought into the spotlight. Health systems are under duress – from populations being unable to access basic healthcare needs, to pursuit of efficiency in overstretched health systems due to the rise of chronic conditions, and the wider impact of the pandemic. There is a need for something new and self-care is the right piece for the puzzle.

We know that there are now more proven self-care products and practices available to populations today than ever before. Enabling the correct policy frameworks that embed self-care seamlessly into the care continuum unlocks global health systems. A WHA resolution on self-care will help foster the necessary momentum and provide the framework to fully integrate it into health systems for the benefit of individuals and society. 

A potential resolution should seek to include some of following key elements:

  • Defines self-care and outlines its value to national health systems, governments, and to the people-centred care framework. 
  • Facilitates Member States’ development and effective implementation of national self-care strategies, guidelines or plans that address the core enablers of self-care practices.
  • Provides direction to Member States on aligning resources, investments, and new and existing policies of relevance in service of a single, harmonized national strategy on self-care.


Alongside the key elements above, the resolution would call on Member States, considering their national circumstances, to:

  • Enhance public health literacy and education, and implement public awareness campaigns on self-care interventions for health and well-being;
  • Adopt, integrate, and scale digital health tools for self-care into national health and social care systems;
  • Build health and social care professionals’ capacity on self-care, by including self-care practices in training modules for health workers and implementing national guidelines that incorporate self-care into healthcare prevention and treatment plans, with a particular focus on community-based primary care;
  • Recognize self-care as a critical, cross-cutting component of the care continuum, a core component of people-centred care, and an enabler of UHC;
  • Invest in policies that promote self-care practices as a means of reducing health care expenditures and addressing gaps in the health and social care workforce.


Self-care offers a promising path forward for achieving UHC and ensuring health and well-being for all. We need to build sustainable, long-lasting, health systems. Self-care represents a viable solution – not only to promote health, but also provide options to vulnerable populations in need. 

A healthy future for all is critical and can’t happen without self-care’s inclusion into the care continuum.


01 #PeoplePowered

02 Breaking Taboos

03 Moving Care Closer to Consumers

04 Innovating on Investments

Let's Talk About Sex