Self-care is the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a health-care provider. When made accessible and affordable, self-care interventions have the potential to increase individuals’ autonomy and self-efficacy in making decisions about their own care, strengthen countries’ health systems, and ultimately pave the way toward universal health coverage.
Self-care interventions also help create more equity. Women and girls are often disadvantaged compared to men regarding their access to quality health care. Self-care aims to redress this imbalance by enabling an equal, practical environment for everyone to access the SRHR care they require.
Done well, self-care offers a pathway to meeting the demand for quality health care for all people. When all individuals are given the opportunity to become active, empowered agents in their health, this will ultimately lead to improved health outcomes and contribute to the achievement of universal health coverage and other global milestones.
Self-care is a critical pathway to achieving global development objectives set out in Sustainable Development Goals 3 and 5; Family Planning 2020; UNAIDS’ 90-90-90; and the WHO’s “triple billion” initiative at the heart of its new five-year strategic plan.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes the need for and benefits of self-care. The WHO’s Consolidated Guideline on Self-Care Interventions for SRHR, published June 24th, covers people-centered, evidence-based recommendations for key self-care interventions for SRHR and has been a pivotal moment for the SRHR community.
A supplement supported by UNDP/UNFPA/UNICEF/WHO/World Bank Special Programme – HRP and published by the BMJ looks at issues of self-care interventions for sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). The special supplement includes a collection of analyses, systematic reviews and opinion pieces, providing an evidence base for the development of global normative guidance.