What is Self-Care?

What is self-care?

WHO defines self-care as “the ability for individuals, families and communities to promote, maintain health, prevent disease and cope with illness with or without the support of a healthcare provider.” Self-care allows people to become agents of their own health, leading to improved outcomes, especially in the area of sexual and reproductive health where stigma may prevent them from seeking care.

Self-care is an integral part of the health system, linking to primary care and healthcare services.

Self-Care in Health

Self-care is not new. For millennia people have been taking measures to prevent disease, promote health and cope with illness and disability with and without a health care provider. While self-care will never replace the need for access to quality healthcare, self-care interventions are among the most promising and exciting new approaches to improve health and well-being—both from a health systems perspective and for people who use these interventions. 

Self-care can encompass many different aspects of care. It can be particularly effective in the field of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) given the deeply personal nature of sexuality and reproduction and the stigma and barriers individuals can face in accessing information, products and services. New diagnostics, devices, drugs and digital health are transforming the way people interact with the health system and has spotlighted the untapped potential for people to take charge of their own health in ways never before possible.

These include self-care interventions for:

  • Fertility regulation such as pregnancy tests and oral and emergency contraception;
  • Sexual health promotion, such as platforms to seek advice and information through digital health for sexually transmitted infections, virility enhancement and alleviation of menopause symptoms;
  • Disease prevention and control activities;
  • Treatment such as self-administered HIV antiretroviral drugs.

The following is a series of resources that describe self-care and self-care interventions. This list is not exhaustive.

Initially, we will curate resources focusing on materials produced by SCTG members. In 2020 and beyond, we will expand to a wider portfolio of resources. 

Igniting a Self-Care Movement for Sexual and Reproductive Health from White Ribbon Alliance

  • An advocacy road map intended to reflect the wider thinking of the growing self-care community and to serve as a blueprint for collective advocacy action.

Self-Care: Better Daily Health for Individuals and Societies: A Global Policy Blueprint by Bayer

  • Establishing self-care as a global policy priority to improve health outcomes and address the sustainability of health systems around the world is both necessary and achievable. As this paper suggests, however, achieving self-care’s potential will require that we expand access and exposure to health literacy and tools that enable the greater adoption of lifelong self-care practices. Giving people the assurance and capabilities to practice self-care requires addressing a knowledge gap from a health literacy standpoint and a leadership gap in encouragement, support and promotion among policymakers.

Women’s Self-Care: Products and Practices from PATH

  • Women’s ownership of their sexual and reproductive health (SRH) is a rights-based expression of self-determination. In this issue of Outlook on Reproductive Health, we address these rights and highlight recent information on technologies and practices with high potential to enable and expand SRH self-care, including self-administration of injectable contraception, pericoital or “on-demand” contraception, safe practice of medical abortion at home, self-testing for HIV, and vaginal self-sampling for cervical cancer screening. The available evidence demonstrates that health systems and practitioners can and should trust women with many aspects of their own care.

Self-Care: A Cost Effective Solution for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health for All from White Ribbon Alliance

  • This policy brief is based on a review of literature and interviews with community health, quality-of-care, self-care and MNCH experts. It explores the possibilities and advantages of a paradigm shift in MNCH that would make self-care a central operating premise. We also hope it serves as a call to action for all those in a position to ensure that the very women and children we are trying to help have the support to realize most basic of desires: to care for themselves