On the occasion of the 75th WHO World Health Assembly, the Global Self-Care Federation (GSCF) launched the Global Social and Economic Value of Self-Care study on a ceremony in Geneva, Switzerland. Some of the highlights of the research conducted in 18 countries across 4 continents provided that self-care can lead to savings of nearly USD 120 billion each year for global healthcare systems and of 40.8 billion productive days for both health practitioners and individuals, as well as a gain of 22 million quality-adjusted life years. The figures are impressive and point to an urgent shift in healthcare policies. But what exactly is self-care?
According to the World Health Organization it is “the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent diseases, maintain health and cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a health worker”. For that end, individuals should have the capacity of obtaining, processing and understanding basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions. It involves adopting healthy habits such as exercising regularly and having a nutritious diet. Finally, self-care has the rational and responsible use of products, services, diagnostics, and medicines as a key pillar of the concept.
Self-care should be more important than ever after the COVID-19 pandemic’s hit in healthcare systems, especially in developing regions such as Latin America. Nevertheless, a study conducted by Latin American Self-Care Association (ILAR) about the impact of the pandemic on self-care showed that an alarming 52% of the participants of the survey do not consider having the adequate level of knowledge to take self-care actions with confidence.
Elsewhere, policymakers have been increasingly implementing healthcare initiatives to change this reality. Some are focused on health literacy programs that are implemented already in early years. A specific approach by the United Kingdom is to integrate concepts of self-care in the mandatory national curriculum of schools. Since 2020, it includes statutory guidance on personal, social, health, and economic education as well as sex and relationships education. Among the topics addressed are the simple self-care techniques, nutrition, personal hygiene, prevention of health and wellbeing problems, and basic first aid.
Germany has been working on the digitalization of healthcare, which is a key tool for increasing the accessibility of self-care. In 2019, the Federal Government passed the Digital Healthcare Act (DVG). With this legislation, apps have been developed to be used by patients, who will be able to receive prescriptions from doctors through it.
Despite the rise in success cases around the world, much can still be done for self-care policies to be a central part in the post-pandemic recovery of healthcare systems in emerging markets. Our Policy team recognizes three main focuses on the incorporation of self-care into policymaking:
1- Governments must have a long-term strategy to implement a self-care culture in their policies, giving enough time for policymakers, healthcare professionals and society to adopt these concepts in their daily routines.
2- Education in healthcare should be part of the mandatory formation of a citizen, and schools are favorable places to start a cultural shift towards a better-informed population.
3- Digitalization of healthcare is key to broadening access to healthcare in an increasingly connected world, especially with the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic.
With this approach, Speyside believes emerging markets can contribute for some of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to be reached at a much faster pace, leading to more sustainable and equitable healthcare systems by the incorporation of self-care strategies.