People being empowered to take greater responsibility for managing their own health could hold the key to tackling escalating chronic illnesses currently affecting one in two Australians, health policy think tank the Mitchell Institute has argued.
To mark today’s International Self Care Day (July 24), leading health organisations have banded together to begin developing a blueprint for how self-care can be integrated into the Australian healthcare system.
Ben Harris, Health Policy Lead at Victoria University’s Mitchell Institute, said the move could play a significant role in disease prevention and better management of chronic illness.
According to the think tank, self-care is the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health and cope with illness and disability, with or without the support of a healthcare provider.
“Australians want to be healthy and the first step is for people to practice self-care,” Mr Harris said.
“It can include making time for exercise, eating a healthy diet, engaging in support groups, meditating, or finding health information to self-treat minor medical issues. It also includes talking with friends and family about health issues and getting support and advice when needed.”
Mr Harris said one in two Australians have a chronic illness and more than a third are preventable and that integrating self-care into the nation’s health system could help prevent and manage chronic illness.
“Patients can [often] be treated as the passive recipient of care in our health system, rather than people able to make their own decisions with support and encouragement,” he said.
“Our health system needs to recognise the reality that most health decisions are made by individuals, families and communities. We need to support and encourage self-care.”