A Manifesto for Self-Care

This ‘Manifesto for Self-Care’ presents the key features, aims and principles of self-care.

  1. Self-care is a practical, person-centred set of activities that we should all be undertaking to maintain our health, wellness and wellbeing. Self-care can only be undertaken by individuals themselves, although the broader environment can provide vital assistance or present significant barriers.
  2. Self-care is a normal part of everyday life in which everyone engages, consciously or unconsciously, irrespective of their circumstances. There is however great potential for making self-care more explicit and increasing its role in personal, family, community and national health.
  3. Self-care is both a set of activities and a repetitive cycle of behaviour (Act → Monitor → Recognise → Evaluate → Act). Self-care behaviours involve individual capability, opportunity and motivation.
  4. Through self-care people can be healthier and remain so into old age, managing minor ailments themselves. They can also better manage, delay or even prevent the appearance of so-called ‘lifestyle’ diseases such as heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and many cancers.
  5. Self-care does not mean no care, nor does it imply that people are simply left to look after themselves without external support. Rather, an overarching aim of self-care is to move people away from an unnecessary dependence on health professionals and health systems, enabling them—with the appropriate support, tools and knowledge—to take better care of themselves.
  6. Self-care is equally relevant for disease prevention and for people with medical conditions, when all the basic elements of self-care still need to be undertaken, along with self-management actions specific to the disease(s).
  7. The primary beneficiary of self-care is the self-carer, but other beneficiaries include family members and overstretched healthcare systems. There is an important societal balance to be struck between rights to health and healthcare, and responsibilities towards one’s own health and for the consequences of poor lifestyle choices.
  8. Self-care presents huge opportunities for all stakeholders, including healthy individuals and patients, governments, policymakers, the healthcare professions, community organisations, NGOs, charities, consumer organisations and intergovernmental organisations. All businesses have an interest in the health, wellness and wellbeing of their employees and some have direct commercial interest in self-care products and services.
  9. Self-care is equally important in developed countries and in resource-poor settings, although the nature of the health challenges and the priorities for self-care may vary considerably. Many countries have incorporated aspects of self-care into policies, and promoted some innovation and notable practices. However, all countries are a long way from implementing robust and meaningful policy prescriptions designed to promote individual and population self-care capabilities, shift professional practices, or reorient healthcare systems towards a preventative ethos. While the importance of achieving a salutogenic health model has been acknowledged in theory and in some helpful global rhetoric from the UN and the WHO, there is a long way to go before real transformation.
  10. Developing self-care requires systematic development of the evidence, theory and practice. Until now, being substantially outside the remit of current health and social systems, self-care has not received sufficient research and development attention from academia. We are still lacking a definitive canon of evidence that makes the absolute case for self-care and the best ways to implement self-care in real-world settings. There are also many ‘silos’ of activity important to self-care, with much potential for connection.
  11. There is a great opportunity and need for self-care promotion – to articulate and promote the practice of self-care to healthy individuals, patients and all stakeholders around the world. All stakeholders would benefit from the unified strategic global development of a commonly-understood and accepted self-care, where currently they use alternative terms such as healthy lifestyles, self-management or disease prevention. Ultimately, the objective is to promote a consistent, evidence-based narrative which frames the subject of self-care in a way that all stakeholders accept, and which becomes embedded in society.
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