Author: World Health Organization
Publisher: World Health Organization
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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. The World Health Organization (WHO) uses the following working definition of self-care: 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 worker. The scope of self-care as described in this definition includes health promotion; disease prevention and control; self-medication; providing care to dependent persons; seeking hospital/specialist/primary care if necessary; and rehabilitation, including palliative care. It includes a range of self-care modes and approaches. While this is a broad definition that includes many activities, it is important for health policy to recognize the importance of self-care, especially where it intersects with health systems and health professionals. Worldwide, an estimated shortage of 18 million health workers is anticipated by 2030, a record 130 million people are currently in need of humanitarian assistance, and disease outbreaks are a constant global threat. At least 400 million people worldwide lack access to the most essential health services, and every year 100 million people are plunged into poverty because they have to pay for health care out of their own pockets. There is an urgent need to find innovative strategies that go beyond the conventional health sector response. While "self-care" is not a new term or concept, self-care interventions have the potential to increase choice, when they are accessible and affordable, and they can also provide more opportunities for individuals to make informed decisions regarding their health and health care. In humanitarian settings, for example, due to lack of or limited health infrastructure and medical services in the crisis-affected areas, self-care could play an important role to improve health-related outcomes. Self-care also builds upon existing movements, such as task sharing, which are powerful strategies to support health systems.