Representatives from the headquarters and country teams that worked on the

Self-Care Wheel, with Dr Tedros Gebreyesus, WHO Director-General

The Self-Care Wheel, which recently won the World Health Organization (WHO) internal Director-General’s Excellence Award for Innovation 2023, is now set to help demystify self-care and increase understanding of WHO’s recommended self-care interventions in several countries.

Aimed at both the general public and health and care workers, the Self-Care Wheel is a combined paper and digital tool that illustrates the evidence-based recommendations in the WHO guideline on self-care interventions for health and well-being in a straightforward and an easy-to-understand way. It promotes a shared language on self-care for health and care workers and clients, and helps to strengthen links with the health system by using a simple colour-coded traffic light system to show which interventions can be accessed without the support of a health and care worker and those that need their support.

A staggering 4.2 billion people – around half the world’s population – lack access to essential health services, including for sexual and reproductive health and rights. Self-care interventions can help expand access to such services and include ovulation predictor kits, HIV self-testing, self-managed medical abortion, self-administered injectable contraception, and self-sampling to screen for human papillomavirus (HPV).

Local solutions

The idea for the Self-Care Wheel was sparked by a call for entries for WHO’s 2023 LEAD Innovation Challenge. Taking the concept of the Medical Eligibility Criteria Wheel as a starting point, a joint team from WHO headquarters and the India Country Office adapted and expanded upon that concept to create a hybrid paper and digital solution for self-care. Up against more than 50 entries, the Self-Care Wheel successfully progressed through several elimination rounds before being chosen as one of the five winners of the challenge. Each of the winners were given US$50 000 and four months to take their ideas further.

The Self-Care Wheel was showcased at the World Health Innovation Forum in India in November 2023 and underwent initial testing in Bangladesh, India, Morocco and Nigeria to see if the concept would work. The testing, led by the country teams, took place in a range of urban and rural areas involving a mix of target groups including adolescent girls and women of reproductive age, care givers, community health workers, programme managers and pharmacists, who used the Wheel to identify appropriate self-care responses as recommended by WHO.

The WHO team then used insights and feedback to further refine and update the tool to make it easier to use before a final presentation to the LEAD Challenge judging panel before being declared the winner of the WHO Director-General’s Excellence Award for Innovation.

“Winning this award is a tremendous achievement. Self-care interventions have huge potential for increasing access to sexual and reproductive health services, and the Self-Care Wheel is one of the ways that we hope will help unlock that potential at a community level,” said Dr Manjulaa Narasimhan, scientist in WHO’s Department of Sexual and Reproductive Health and the UN Special Programme on Human Reproduction (HRP), leading on self-care interventions in health and well-being.

Next steps

The Self-Care Wheel will now go through more extensive testing in India, Morocco and Nigeria by the respective country teams.

SOURCE: WHO News, 4 April 2024