WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION – Implications of self-care for health service provision

Editorial, by Manjula Narasimhan, Mukesh Kapila

Bulletin of the WHO 2019;97(2):76-76A  (Open access) DOI:

Self-care interventions for health are among the most promising and exciting new approaches contributing to universal health coverage (UHC). The World Health Organization’s (WHO) working definition of self-care is “the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a health-care provider.” The scope of self-care in this definition includes health promotion; disease prevention and control; self-medication; providing care to dependent persons; seeking hospital/specialist care if necessary; and rehabilitation, including palliative care. This definition recognizes that individuals act to preserve health or respond to symptoms by determining their health-seeking behaviour and when to interface with professional care….

WHO is developing a consolidated normative guideline around self-care, including for sexual and reproductive health and rights. Through a broad, consultative process, this guideline will build upon existing recommendations, including those for non-communicable diseases, HIV self-testing and self-management of abortion. Self-care holds promise for reducing health inequities, potentially enhancing user autonomy and advancing UHC.

VISUAL: by Sarah Tate/Brit + Co