International day promotes self-care to reduce burden of disease

self-care disease burden

Campaigners aim to promote self-care as a way of reducing the burden of non-communicable diseases.

The international self-care movement, started in China last year, promotes individual responsibility for health and well-being. This year the movement has gone global with July 24 being designated Self-Care Day.

The aim of Self-Care Day is to educate people on the basics of self-care and to call on public authorities to recognise the role of self-care in reducing the socio-economic burden of disease. The movement is also asking for a UN World Self-Care Day to raise the issue globally.

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) lead to 63 percent of deaths annually worldwide, and are recognized as a global killer and major health challenge. The economic burden of such deaths over the next 20 years is estimated to be $30 trillion.

However, NCDs are preventable, to a large extent, by self-care. Research suggests up to 80 percent of heart disease, Type-2 diabetes, strokes and over a third of cancers could be prevented by individuals following a healthy lifestyle and avoiding health risks. This could mean stopping smoking, eating healthier, increasing exercise levels and avoiding the harmful use of alcohol.

“We all have a right to health but also a responsibility to play our part through simple self-care habits. When practiced 24/7, they make a huge difference to our wellbeing,” says Dr Zhenyu Guo, the founder of the movement and initiator of the first Self-Care Day in China in 2011.

Supporters believe self-care is catching on around the world as more people and health workers recognise the benefits of individual responsibility in tackling NCDs and the burden of disease.

David Webber from WSMI believes that, “Individuals and decision-makers are starting to appreciate self-care as a powerful weapon to tackle the burden of diseases in terms of their impact on public health budgets and the toll they take on individuals.”

Despite the progress made in promoting self-care it still doesn’t play a crucial role in shaping health systems, where disease treatment is a priority. Supporters say self-care isn’t appreciated by policy-makers or the public as a viable tool in preventing disease.

With the global burden of disease growing, and lifestyle diseases such as obesity and Type-2 diabetes putting an increasing strain on healthcare systems, encouraging people to self-medicate could be a long-term solution.