International Self Care Day or ISD is celebrated
each year on July 24. The day is meant to highlight the importance of self-care
as a part of healthy living on a regular basis. This is especially important in
light of the rising incidence of lifestyle diseases worldwide.
preventable if adequate attention is paid to personal health care, including
diet, fitness and other lifestyle choices. Lifestyle diseases today account for
close to two-thirds of health care cost putting a huge strain on the health
care industry. The resultant strain on the system will also severely impact the
quality of health care being provided.
While adequate self-care can help to prevent chronic
, it can also help to reduce
the costs of infectious diseases. Common infections and contagious diseases
often spread because of poor hygiene, malnutrition and a lack of basic health
care practices. The rapid spread of the Ebola virus in Africa last year should
serve to highlight this fact. In the absence of basic health literacy, a
disease that could have been contained through adequate self-care measures was
allowed to run wild as panic set in and people made poor choices. The importance
of health literacy in this context cannot be stressed enough. Poor levels of
health literacy in parts of Ebola-hit Africa meant that people turned to
religion and superstition, congregating in huge numbers in churches, despite
public health warnings against such mass gatherings because of the high risk of
The situation in India is also quite precarious.
With a growing urban population, there has been a dramatic rise in lifestyle
diseases like heart disease
and diabetes; many, if not all, result
in untimely deaths. The economic cost in such situations goes far beyond
medical expenses. There's also the problem of poor hygiene and lack of basic
sanitation that often characterizes the slums dominating India's urban
landscape. While India produces some of the best medical professionals who are
sought after across the world, it is ill equipped to deal with the burgeoning
problems that result from poor self-care.
The Essentials of Self
Here are some of the prerequisites to improving
public health through self-care:
Personal Self-Care Tips
- Health Literacy:
The dissemination of sound medical information is crucial to improving
public health levels. There is a vast body of knowledge available through the
internet and public libraries and people need to be encouraged to educate
themselves. Public health initiatives should focus on improving public health
In the health care context, self-awareness implies being aware of your
physical and mental health and taking steps to monitor and maintain your
health. Knowledge about self-care and health literacy improves one's levels of
awareness and this knowledge needs to be applied practically by responding to
your health condition and by seeking regular check-ups and medical tests. Preventive
care is essential as timely identification of the warning signs of healthcare
diseases can help avert problems that will prove to be a lot more costly in the
Activity: A sedentary lifestyle is one of the major causes of lifestyle
diseases and to counter this problem, you need to stay physically active. Make
an effort to indulge in physical activities like walking, swimming or cycling
regularly to maintain both your physical and mental health. If you do not have
time to exercise regularly, try to engage in other physical activities; walk to
the grocery store instead of driving or climb the stairs instead of using
- Diet: The
dietary shift towards processed or refined foods and junk foods has been another
major contributing factor towards lifestyle diseases. The risk of such diseases
can be significantly reduced by making healthy food choices.
- Risk Control: Certain behaviors
increase the risk of diseases and accidents and such behaviors need to be
avoided. For example, people need to be encouraged to seek vaccination; they
should be encouraged to follow safety protocol such as wearing seat belts and
following driving laws, using pedestrian footpaths and so on.
- Hygiene: Improving hygiene levels and
sanitation can greatly reduce the cost of diseases like typhoid, dysentery and
cholera. Poor hygiene can also be a contributing factor to the high incidence
of conditions like malaria as open sewers and stagnant water provide
breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
- Responsible Use of Health Care Services: Medications can be central
to self-care but they need to be used responsibly. To this end, people need to
be better informed about the appropriate usage of diagnostic tools, preventive
medicine and over the counter medications, and also about the risks associated
with irresponsible usage.
Here are some points so keep in mind as you try to
take control of your health:
- Eat Healthy: Make sure that your diet is well balanced and
nutritious by including foods from every food group. Always opt for fresh food
varieties rather than processed foods and try to use healthier cooking methods
eating foods like salads, bakes and other cooked foods rather than fried foods.
Eat plenty of fresh fruits and veggies and go slow on the red meat and sodas.
- Personal Hygiene: Always maintain high
levels of personal hygiene by bathing regularly, brushing your teeth and
changing and washing your clothes frequently.
- Seek Medical Help: If you are unwell
and cannot be certain that it is a mild illness, like a common cold that
doesn't require treatment, visit your doctor promptly. Follow your health care
provider's advice meticulously, especially when it comes to dosage, duration of
treatment and follow-ups.
- Relax: Do not get so caught up in your fast paced life and urge to
climb the corporate ladder that you forgot the essentials of health and
wellbeing. Sleep and relaxation are absolutely essential and without adequate
rest your body and mind cannot function to its full potential.
- Alcohol and Substance Abuse: Drink
responsibly and occasionally. Heavy drinking is a leading cause of liver failure and other lifestyle diseases.
Also make it a point to avoid smoking or quit smoking if you are a smoker.
Likewise, avoid illegal drugs or any kind of pharmaceutical drug dependence and
seek help if you fear that you may have an addiction.
- Taking Charge of Your Health: Depending
on your age, start going for regular health checkups as required. Regular
health checks are essential once you cross a certain age and can help you take
Stearns, S C et al.
"The Economic Implications of Self-Care: The Effect of Lifestyle, Functional
Adaptations, and Medical Self-Care among a National Sample of Medicare
Beneficiaries." American Journal of Public Health 90.10 (2000): 1608-1612.