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The State Of Self Care In Australia

You’ve seen the term plastered across social media during the Covid19 Pandemic, it’s made article headlines, trended on Google - but how much do you really know about Self Care?

After all some 31 million plus Instagram hashtags about Self Care can't all be wrong? Therein lies the issue. As a word, it means vastly different things to different people. Often many of them are just plain wrong.

Without a clear understanding of what Self Care actually is by the population at large, all we do is perpetuate myths that Self Care is bath bombs and yoga retreats.

That’s probably why it has been seized upon opportunistically by business and is now, albeit until Covid19 a $4.7 trillion dollar industry.

Given the current global economic situation, no one wants to see industries and livelihoods collapse but is it time for a united message as to what Self Care actually is and its role in helping us to manage our mental health and wellbeing: Mind. Body. Spirit.

The current myth is you need to pay vast sums to benefit from Self Care. Not so, Self Care is fundamental to all of us and it is more relevant now than ever in a Covid19 world.

Sadly there isn’t a community wide understanding of what actually is Self Care.

The State Of Self Care In Australia Report

‘Taking care of yourself’ is an everyday idea but a review report commissioned by the Australian Health Policy Collaboration (AHPC) at Victoria University in 2018 highlighted the lack of support from Australia’s health system for people who need support to care for their own health and wellbeing.

It found that support for Self Care for people who wish to or need to improve their health, and for self management by people with poor health and chronic health conditions, is limited and inadequate.

The report was undertaken by AHPC for an ad hoc collaboration of three organisations interested in Self Care – The Australian Self Medication Industry, HCF and Remedy Healthcare.

Self Care is defined by the World Health Organisation (2013) as ‘the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, and maintain health and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a health-care provider’.

The role of Self Care in effective health management and treatment is one of the major gaps in Australia’s health policy framework.

In ‘The State of Self Care in Australia’ as far back as February 2018, the report found that there is no evidence that people who most need support with Self Care and self-management are being effectively targeted by existing programs.

It further found that there is no coherent approach to establishing clear priorities for Self Care, particularly in populations where the need is greatest, as evidenced by their poorer health.

The term ‘Self Care’ is not widely used nor commonly used in Australian health policy documents: however the term ‘self management is, generally implying the active participation of individuals in the management of established health conditions.

The AHPC review found that there is a range of Self Care support services across Australia and that there is a multiplicity of sources of information. However, there is scant evidence that people who most need support with Self Care and self management are being effectively reached by these.

For example: The report found, 40% of Australians with the lowest levels of financial resources are particularly disadvantaged with much worse health outcomes than other Australians.

They are 33% more likely to have diabetes and 172% more likely to die from diabetes. These Australians are much more likely to be obese, much more likely to smoke and to have little or no exercise. Australia has been very slow to adopt effective approaches for supporting these groups of people with Self Care and self management services and support.

According to Professor Rosemary Calder, Director of Australian Health Policy Collaboration, from the Mitchell Institute at Victoria University this review highlights the evident potential of Self Care as a component of healthy public policy is not being fully harnessed in Australia and that it could and should be.’

At WOW Chaplaincy through our WOW Self Care School, and noticing the vast discrepancies promoted online and offline as to what Self Care actually is, we have set out to practically educate our own community which is primarily businesses and their teams on what is Self Care for this very reason.

We further adopted the following definition of Self Care to encompass the role health care professionals and consumers collaboratively play in helping an individual practice Self Care. This takes into account the role Mental Health helpers play in imparting self management tools and skills.

Self-care is a lifelong habit and culture. It is the practice of individuals looking after their own health based on the knowledge and information available to them. It is a decision-making process that empowers individuals to look after their own health efficiently and conveniently, in collaboration with health and social care professionals as needed.

Researching data available we identified that Self Care can in fact be divided into 7 core plinths. Each plinth interacting with each other and, used and strengthened according to individual need and focus.

These core plinths are:

· Career

· Physical

· Social

· Financial

· Community

· Spiritual

· Planet

All should be built on a solid foundation of Emotional Self Care.

Practically there are things we all can do to help our health and wellbeing using Self Care. Part of that is being aware of interconnectedness of each of the Self Care plinths.

The premise is simple, when striving to improve our lives, we’re quick to buy into programs that promise to help us make money, lose weight, or strengthen our relationships. Commercialised products abound. However, while it might be easier to treat these critical areas in our lives if they are independent, they’re not. Education about what is Self Care is key.

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