'Taking care of yourself’ is an everyday idea – but a new health review report highlights the lack of support from Australia’s health system for people who need support to care for their own health and wellbeing.
The report, The State of Self Care in Australia, has been prepared by the Australian Health Policy Collaboration (AHPC) at Victoria University.
'Self care' is defined by the World Health Organisation (2013) as ‘the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, and maintain health and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a health-care provider’.
The report found that support for self care for people who wish to or need to improve their health, and for self management by people with poor health and chronic health conditions, is limited and inadequate.
Less-wealthy Australians particularly disadvantaged
The 40% of Australians with the lowest levels of financial resources are particularly disadvantaged with much worse health outcomes than other Australians. They are 33% more likely to have diabetes and 172% more likely to die from diabetes.
These Australians are much more likely to be obese, much more likely to smoke and to have little or no exercise. Australia has been very slow to adopt effective approaches for supporting these groups of people with self-care and self-management services and support.
Time to rethink health support
The AHPC review found that there are a range of self-care support services across Australia and that there is a multiplicity of sources of information. However, there is scant evidence that people who most need support with self-care and self-management are being effectively reached by these.
‘Health policy is confronted by the rapid rise in chronic diseases in the population and the rising costs of health care for these. It is time to rethink how health is supported and governed in order to improve the overall health and wellbeing of the population and achieve better outcomes from investments in health care’.
- Professor Calder
‘This review highlights that the evident potential of self-care as a component of healthy public policy is not being fully harnessed in Australia and that it could and should be.’
The report was undertaken by AHPC for an ad-hoc collaboration of three organisations interested in self care:
- the Australian Self Medication Industry
- Remedy Healthcare.
The three organisations that commissioned the study are persuing contact with organisations interested in self care and how it might be incorporated into health policy in Australia.