Written by Kasey Henderson, Advocacy Coordinator, Population Services International, and Susan Leibtag, Compass Curator, Breakthrough ACTION
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact our lives, our daily habits have had to shift in response. We have become accustomed to wearing a mask while outside our homes to protect ourselves and others from disease. Washing our hands for 20 seconds with soap and water has become even more important. And we have spent much of this year physically distancing from one another.
All of these actions are a type of self-care, a measure that people take to prevent disease, promote health, and cope with illness and disability with or without a healthcare provider. With the emergence of COVID-19, we have seen an increase in individuals practicing self-care behaviors, and in doing so, these individuals not only learn important skills but also help reduce the burden on health providers by embracing these healthy practices.
Self-care encompasses many different aspects of care and is particularly relevant in the field of sexual and reproductive health and rights, where barriers to accessing provider-based services, including stigma, can be particularly high. This can take the form of interventions such as HIV self-tests, self-injectable contraceptives, fertility monitoring applications, and human papillomavirus self-sampling.
During this pandemic, self-care offers us a unique opportunity to reimagine our healthcare systems, identify and scale up self-care interventions, and build better for tomorrow.
While it may seem daunting to re-think health care in this way, it doesn’t have to be. The WHO Consolidated Guideline on Self-Care Interventions for Health offers a great starting point in understanding the power that self-care can have in transforming the healthcare system. This normative guidance aims to support individuals, communities, and countries with quality health services and self-care interventions, based on primary health care strategies, comprehensive essential service packages, and people-centeredness.
For those who are looking to extend their knowledge beyond the WHO guidelines, a host of additional tools are available to keep people at the center of your programming.
The Self-Care Trailblazer Group, a global coalition dedicated to advancing the evidence, practice, learning, and policy landscape of self-care for sexual and reproductive health and rights, has pulled together some preferred resources surrounding different self-care interventions to share with you. From building collective advocacy action to examining the cost-effectiveness of self-care programs to expanding the available options of existing self-care services, these tools all offer an insight into ways that enable users to fully control their healthcare decisions.
To access these tools and materials visit the new Trending Topic. You can also join the Self-Care Trailblazer Group to transform the status quo of healthcare as we work to equip, empower, and encourage people to meet their own health needs through self-care.
 WHO. (2019). WHO Consolidated Guideline on Self-Care Interventions for Health: Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights. https://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/self-care-interventions/en/