Countries need to institutionalize self-care by incorporating it into the building blocks of public policy, putting ‘health in all policies’. While some promising self-care policy programs have been implemented, they have been rather too few and too isolated. One-off initiatives are not enough to create the fundamental shifts in practice that are required. What is needed is for self-care to be a global health policy priority involving health ministers and policymakers at the national and international level. This, in turn, can lead to and inspire sustained, comprehensive and well-coordinated self-care policy initiatives at country and local levels.
For some interventions the policy levers and personal factors which can help are well known. For example, increased tobacco taxation and bans on smoking in public areas are proven effective devices in helping people to quit smoking. But what are the best policies for helping people to exercise more, eat more healthily, or lose weight, in country-relevant socioeconomic and cultural terms? Policies which focus on supporting positive behaviours in healthy people are more appropriate and useful than those which penalise sick people. And policies which are universal in their application are also likely to be better accepted than those that appear to target individuals.
The lessons from successful (and unsuccessful) self-care programmes around the world need to be better recorded and systematised to help inform future policy decisions and research directions. ISF is planning to establish a shareable resource database of global best practices and policies that focus specifically on self-care, drawing on global experiences and working with all stakeholders. Please contact us for further information (firstname.lastname@example.org).