The State of Self-Care in Australia is a review of the ways in which Australia is attempting to encourage and enable individuals to look after their own health and wellbeing. The role of self-care in effective health management and treatment is one of the major gaps in Australia’s health policy framework.

This work is the result of an ad-hoc collaboration between three funding organisations, the Australian Self Medication Industry, HCF and Remedy Healthcare and Mitchell Institute at Victoria University.

Self-care is defined by the WHO (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’. It challenges many longstanding notions about the role of doctor and patient in maintaining the health of individuals and families and recognises that a patient must be an active participant in, rather than a passive recipient of, treatment.

The review found that considerable efforts are being made to support better self-care throughout the country and there is a multiplicity of sources of information. Despite this commitment and activity, there is a lack of strategic direction to help people navigate the complex boundary between individual and professional responsibilities for health. There is scant evidence that people who most need support with self-care and self-management are being effectively targeted by existing programs.

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. This review highlights that the evident potential of self-care as a component of healthy public policy is not being fully harnessed in Australia. It is time to think again.

The report was written by Dr Maria Duggan and Professor Rosemary Calder AM of the Australian Health Policy Collaboration. Organisations that would like to be informed about future developments in the collaboration on health policy for self-care in Australia, should contact Randall Pearce of THINK: Insight & Advice:[email protected]
Phone: +61 2 9358 6664.


Maria Duggan
Health Policy Fellow, Mitchell Institute
Rosemary Calder
Professor of Health Policy, Mitchell Institute