Australians have been urged, instructed and supported to practise self-care and to 'do our bit' to protect everyone else from the COVID-19 pandemic. A new paper by the Mitchell Institute 'Self-care and health: by all, for all', calls for the lessons from the COVID-19 experience to make self-care a central component – for the sake of everyone's health.

The paper coincides with International Self-Care Day, a global campaign for recognition of self-care as essential for good health for individuals and populations. The new report, highlights the effectiveness of self-care in improving health and wellbeing for individuals and communities.

Professor of Health Policy, Rosemary Calder says that "we have had strong national and local leadership throughout the COVID-19 experience that has been focused on getting each one of us to help keep ourselves safe from infection, and to help others by doing so. We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to apply this lesson to develop our health system to help people to be healthier, rather than waiting for them to be unwell with health problems that are preventable – which is what happens now."

"COVID-19 has shown us that engaging people in understanding how to prevent infection and illness, and how to be as healthy as possible, can reduce preventable health problems," Professor Calder says.

Individual self-care is dependent on a range of factors including health knowledge, health literacy and socioeconomic factors such as casual employment and financial stresses.

"We know that preventable chronic disease and high rates of risks for poor health disproportionately affect individuals and communities that are socio-economically disadvantaged."

The report recommends that governments focus on enabling the health system to embed self-care support in all health care services and to prioritise prevention and management of both infectious and chronic diseases, particularly in primary health care.

"Self-care by all, for all, needs to become usual behaviour and practice in community life, with the same strong leadership from governments and health experts that has been so effective through the pandemic. This approach will not only help improve the health of individuals, it will build our ability to protect ourselves against infectious diseases like COVID-19."