Self-care must become a global health policy priority

22 June 2017

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World-leading experts in consumer healthcare are coming to Sydney to discuss how policies promoting consumer self-care can address global health issues such as ageing populations, a rising tide of preventable disease and the financial sustainability of healthcare systems. These issues and more will be the focus of the World Self Medication Industry (WSMI) General Assembly, October 18-19.

Self-care centres on the idea of people having an increased personal interest in their health, and a greater preparedness to take responsibility for their own physical and mental wellbeing through lifestyle choices, appropriate use of medicines, and improved diet and exercise. It is as much about prevention as cure, which in turn requires the empowerment of consumers to be more informed and engaged in their health, and using the country's scarce healthcare resources in the most effective and efficient manner.

Self-care can be seen as part of a continuum, ranging from predominantly self-care at one extreme and medical care at the other, with various stages of 'shared' care in between.

Self-Care Continuum

Self Care Continuum

National Association for Primary Care                   

In Australia, like many countries, there is no overarching self-care policy, nor any national integrated efforts that actively encourage people to become more proactive and involved with their health. Public health campaigns have focussed on individual elements such as exercise, smoking and obesity, but none have sought to promote a wider view encompassing the breadth of self-care.1

"Self-care is the foundation of healthcare. In order to address self-care barriers, self-care must become a global health policy priority," says Erica Mann, President of Bayer Consumer Health and former Chair of WSMI. Ms Mann will lead a session on Self Care in Global Policy, which will feature presentations by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Medical Association, in addition to representatives from international pharmacy, nursing and NGO patient groups.

There are thousands of Australians who are already proactive in managing their health, particularly for less complex ailments and some chronic conditions. However, while it has been estimated that 70-95% of all illnesses are managed without the intervention of a physician,2 the area of primary care - typically a person's first point of contact with the health system - is arguably where self-care can make a significant impact. There is huge opportunity for doctors, nurses, patient groups and pharmacists to work together, and all have the potential to partner with consumers.

A major responsibility of government is to create a policy environment in which self-care forms an integral part of a national health policy.

"Self-care policy solutions include enabling health literacy, modernising school-based health education, and ensuring healthcare provider standards support self-care. It also includes leadership to ensure policies and funding take a holistic approach to health," says Ms Mann.

"There has never been a more urgent need, or a greater opportunity for self-care. Every country in the world is searching for ways to improve healthcare for their citizens while also making health systems more resilient in the future. Adoption of responsible self-care can help systems better cope with ageing populations, fiscal pressures and increased prevalence of chronic diseases."

As co-host of the 2017 WSMI General Assembly, the Australian Self Medication Industry (ASMI) has assembled an impressive line-up of international speakers and panelists to harness expert opinion, initiate collaborative efforts, and develop and drive the implementation of solutions.

In just a day and a half, delegates will benefit enormously from the insights gained from 28 presentations and five panels featuring 31 world-leading healthcare experts. The 2017 WSMI General Assembly is the must-see event for all those associated with consumer healthcare.

Registrations can be made here.  Early bird discounted registrations are available until June 30.

Watch a short video about the WSMI General Assembly here.

See the full program of speakers and events here.



1.Self Care in Australia:A person-centred approach to a sustainable primary healthcare system 2015,Australian Self Medication Industry (ASMI), 2015.

2. Vulcovic N, Nichter, M.Changing patterns of pharmaceutical practice in the United States. Soc Sci Med 44 1997 1285-1302.

3.The World Health Report 2002. Reducing Risks, Promoting Healthy Life. World Health Organization, Geneva 2002

4.Australia to 2050; future challenges, Commonwealth Government, 2010.