Driving Change: The Push for a WHO Resolution on Self-Care
Over-the-counter treatment can significantly boost global productivity, according to the Global Self-Care Federation.

The rising cost of healthcare is one of the most significant burdens on countries, especially low- and middle-income countries. Research has shown that self-care can be critical in reducing unnecessary expenses for healthcare systems. Global self-care activities generate substantial monetary and healthcare workforce savings, totalling at least approximately $119 billion per year, according to a policy brief published by the United for Self-Care Coalition.

“Increased access to self-care products and services could further alleviate the burden on health systems by freeing up resources and time for healthcare providers to attend to more serious conditions,” explained Judy Stenmark, Director General at the Global Self-Care Federation (GSCF). “Globally, a total of 10.9 billion individual hours and 1.8 billion physician hours are saved every year through self-care practices.”


The United for Self-Care Coalition is advocating for a WHO resolution on self-care by next year. It will hold a Global Summit at the 77th World Health Organization (WHO) World Health Assembly (WHA) to highlight why self-care is critical to achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC). This dialogue will bring together a diverse set of stakeholders to advance the call to codify self-care as a vital component of the healthcare continuum.

Currently, there are WHO guidelines on self-care. However, the coalition believes that a resolution would better provide a framework for self-care’s integration into future economic and health policies and promote awareness of its importance. It said it would drive political commitment and help encourage countries to mobilise resources.

What is self-care?

According to GSCF, self-care can be defined in several ways. First, adopting a healthy lifestyle by staying active and eating nutritious foods while avoiding unhealthy habits like smoking and drinking too much alcohol.

Next, using both prescription and over-the-counter medications responsibly.

Finally, self-recognition, monitoring and management. This includes assessing your symptoms and seeking help from a healthcare professional when needed, monitoring your condition to track any changes, and managing your symptoms independently, with healthcare professionals, or with others with the same condition.

Does it work?

In a general sense, self-care empowers individuals to manage many health conditions conveniently and effectively on their own, leading to greater access to quality healthcare, the federation said. It also enables individuals to take control of their health and well-being, motivating them to enhance their quality of life. Self-care can be essential for preventing certain conditions and speeding up recovery when prevention isn’t possible.

Finally, self-care helps with rising healthcare costs.

“Short-term investments in self-care lead to demonstrable long-term savings for governments and healthcare industries across the world,” GSCF said on its website. “Self-care eases the workload of strained healthcare systems by enabling them to allocate resources more efficiently and effectively.”

In a policy paper highlighting the importance of self-care to reduce non-communicable diseases (NCDs), GSCF provided the following data points:

  • Over-the-counter treatment can significantly boost global productivity, resulting in around 40.8 billion productive days and $1,879 billion in welfare benefits.
  • Future cost savings are estimated at approximately $178.8 billion annually, with productivity gains reaching 71.9 billion productive days annually.
  • Additional self-care practices, including preventive care, oral health care, and the use of vitamins and mineral supplements, can further enhance these benefits.

The First Global Self-Care Summit, themed “Self-Care in Action Empowering Health and Well-Being,” will take place on 28 May at 6 p.m. CET in Geneva. Representatives from key countries such as Costa Rica, Malawi and Egypt have signed on as co-hosts of the event and the hope is that they and others will offer official support for the resolution.

To register, click here.

“We are actively pursuing the adoption of a WHO Resolution on Self-Care because self-care is a fundamental component for the sustainability of our health systems and for the health and well-being of everybody,” GSCF’s Stenmark concluded.

Image Credits: Shutterstock.

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