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Self Care, COVID19 and Equity

During the year our founder, Kathie Melocco was a keynote at The Australian Ethical Health Alliance sector-wide symposium on the topic: 'COVID-19 and Equity' She joined Prof Michael Kidd, Prof Jackie Leach and Mike Stevens in this powerful conversation. The theme encompassed how the most vulnerable in healthcare have been treated throughout the pandemic: how it happened; why it happened; and what it means for AEHA and the way healthcare is organised. Discussions explored the issue of equity of access to vaccines and treatments. An indigenous and multicultural lens on ‘access’ also brought to the forefront, including discussions around neglected populations throughout the pandemic.

Kathie spoke about the need for Self Care to become part of a national policy framework and the neglected vulnerable population of injured workers on workers compensation who were fundamentally left out of COVID-19 response by governments nationally. Moral Injury was very much part of Kathie's contribution and how we improve the situation moving forward.

She also shared her own lived experience of her parents contracting COVID-19 in Aged Care and speaking up for this very vulnerable population. As a result of Kathie's parents' it came to light thousands of aged care workers had not themselves been given access to vaccination at that time. The media storm that followed brought pressure on the Federal Government to rapidly increase vaccinations of Aged Care workers.

During COVID-19 we all actually learnt principles of Self Care on a global scale - wash our hands, socially distance, get vaccinated yet Self Care is still missing from health policy.

Self-care enables individuals to increase health literacy, exercise greater choice, autonomy, power, and control of their health, and improve their health and well-being. At the same time, self-care can contribute to progress towards UHC by making health systems more equitable and efficient. Self-care is about expanding care to those who have limited access and enabling people to act as informed agents of their own health and expanding care to those who have limited access.

• Self-care provides options for those who are currently out of reach of care, helping them access resources, products, information, and tools they need to live a healthy life.

• Self-care is an essential part of the efforts to strengthen primary healthcare (PHC) to achieve UHC by improving people’s access to essential healthcare.

• Self-care is an under-used and high-potential approach to strengthen PHC, help effectively achieve UHC, and reach other global goals.

There is a growing focus on Self Care as an opportunity to improve population health management with The World Health Organization (WHO) defining self-care as “the ability for individuals, families, and communities to promote, maintain health, prevent disease and cope with illness with or without the support of a healthcare provider.”

Self-care enables individuals to exercise greater autonomy, power, and control of their health, and improve their health and well-being.

With the WHO’s published, Consolidated Guideline on Self-Care Interventions for Health, Self Care has been formally recognized as a core strategy for strengthening health systems and advancing universal health coverage, while reducing strain on overburdened health systems.

With self-care, health providers recommend building robust follow-up mechanisms to ensure continuity of care. Further, both public and private health facilities need improved platforms to help record self-care data, which is not currently being captured effectively. From this data we can glean learnings about how to improve, localize and scale self-care interventions.

The Australian Ethical Alliance is made up of:

12 ethical principles Over 1 million health professionals, employees and trainees represented 78 member organisations

About the Healthcare Sector in Australia The healthcare sector in Australia is the fifth largest contributor to national growth. It employs over 1.5 million people and includes healthcare professionals, professional bodies, industry – including medical device and biopharmaceutical sectors – patient groups, regulators, jurisdictions (federal and state), hospitals and health services, research and medical education institutions.

Participants are committed to delivering the best outcomes for patients. Individually, and as organisations, all share similar challenges and hopes – including the desire to maintain and improve ethical behaviour. Society’s trust in government, business and not-for-profit bodies globally, including in Australia, as measured by the respected Edelmen Trust Barometer, has been in steady decline in recent years.

A score below 50 per cent is defined as a trust deficit.

All three sectors – government, business and not for profit – are currently in this trust-deficit zone.

Unethical behaviour is one of the causes of this trust deficit. In an innovative and pioneering initiative, participants in the Australian healthcare sector embarked on developing an Australian Consensus Framework for Ethical Collaboration (ACF). This initiative is sector-led, voluntary and inclusive, and embraces the support of Federal and state and territory jurisdictions.

Having commenced in December 2017 with a group of five bodies representing medical professional groups, industry associations and hospital and health services, the ACF has grown to more than 60 bodies spanning the entire health system. The support from federal and state and territory jurisdictions is also significant. To learn more about the Australian Ethical Health Alliance visit

For more information on understanding Self Care this excellent interview we did with Professor Rosemary Calder from the Mitchell Institute at Victoria University may be helpful.

To book Kathie Melocco to speak at your next conference on Self Care and the Courage To Improve you can book her here.

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