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Advocate For Your Body

We all want the power to invest in our wellbeing—to be able to take care of our emotional, physical and mental health. But without reliable information and appropriate tools, reasonable options and adequate support, it’s not always possible.  

Self Care is changing the face of healthcare. It focuses on equipping and entrusting people to take a central role in their own health. For women, this can involve an important shift to being able to make decisions about their own care, when they may not have had this autonomy before. 

In our programmes, WOW Self Care School too has seen how Self Care can improve healthcare access and quality. 

WHAT IS SELF CARE? 

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines Self Care as “the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a health-care provider.”  

As a health promotion organisation, WOW is adopting Self Care within a patient-centred approach, supporting people with the knowledge and skills to undertake Self-Care safely but retain access to formal health services when they need or wish. 

Self Care includes:

  • Self-management of medication, treatment, examination, injection and administration
  • Self-testing ranging from sampling and screening to diagnosis, collection and monitoring
  • Self-awareness, spanning self-help, self-education, self-regulation, self-efficacy and self-determination.

Self Care is not about people having to do all their own healthcare without support; it is about entrusting people to manage parts of their own healthcare if they choose to do so.  

Simplified tests and treatments, point-of-care devices and mobile technology have all made self-care more possible in recent years—with great potential benefit for women and girls. 

When you have a check, your doctor will talk to you about your medical history, your family’s history of disease and your lifestyle. Your diet, weight, how much you exercise, and whether or not you smoke and drink alcohol or take illegal drugs will also be discussed.

If you have high-risk factors, such as a family history of a condition, it may be more likely that you will develop a particular disease. Regular checks may help your doctor pick up early warning signs.

If you have a high risk of a particular health condition, your doctor may recommend more frequent health checks at an earlier age. 

These are some common tests, but your doctor may recommend others according to your situation.

No one knows your body the way you do—being involved in your health increases your likelihood of ongoing, sustained wellbeing. Know your preventative health checks, like mammograms, skin cancer checks, and cervical cancer screening, and schedule them regularly. Note any symptoms to discuss with a healthcare professional.
 
Regular health check-ups can identify any early signs of health issues. Finding problems early means that your chances for effective treatment are increased. Many factors, such as your age, health, family history, and lifestyle choices, impact on how often you need check-ups.

WHY REGULAR HEALTH CHECKS ARE IMPORTANT?

It is a good idea to visit a doctor regularly, even if you feel healthy. The start of a New Year is always a good time to schedule your yearly appointments. The purpose of these visits is to:

  • check for current or emerging medical problems
  • assess your risk of future medical issues
  • prompt you to maintain a healthy lifestyle
  • update vaccinations.

Health checks are usually incorporated into routine medical care. Your doctor will often perform these checks when you are visiting for another condition, such as a cold or another problem. 

Your doctor will then tell you how often you need to have a health check.

Having a health check is also a time to examine your lifestyle to see what improvements can be made. This may be something you regularly do yourself or discuss with a healthcare professional.

HEALTH CHECKS AT HOME

You can do a basic health check at home to review your health in relation to:

Alcohol – people who have at least two alcohol-free days per week and stick to no more than two standard drinks per drinking day have better long-term health. 

Dental Care – cleaning your teeth regularly and eating a low-sugar diet can reduce your risk of tooth decay, gum disease and tooth loss. Visit a dentist or other oral health professional at least once a year for a dental examination and professional cleaning, or more frequently as advised by your dentist.

Diet – a healthy diet improves your general health and wellbeing. Have at least two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables each day. 

Physical Activity – regular physical activity is good for your mental health, heart and bones, and can prevent many diseases. Aim for 30 minutes to an hour of moderate physical activity a day. Moderate physical activity takes some effort, but still allows a conversation to be held (for example, brisk walking, gentle swimming, social tennis).

Skin Checks – check your skin regularly for unusual moles or freckles, and see your doctor if you notice anything unusual. People who work outdoors need a yearly examination by their doctor or a dermatologist.

Smoking – smoking increases your risk of many diseases, including heart disease, stroke, lung disease and thin bones. If you smoke, quitting as soon as possible helps reduce the harm. 

Weight – maintaining a healthy weight range helps prevent longer-term diseases, such as diabetes and arthritis. 

Regular health checks can help to identify early warning signs of disease or illness. Heart disease, diabetes and some cancers can often be picked up in their early stages, when treatment may be more successful.

HOW DOES SELF CARE IMPROVE HEALTH AND HEALTHCARE? 

Self Care can expand access to healthcare in remote locations, unstable contexts or areas with poor health infrastructure. It can extend healthcare outside the hospital or the clinic, beyond the doctor or the nurse. It can be a pragmatic response where healthcare resources are stretched, but also enable links to care where they didn’t exist before.   

Self Care interventions can deliver evidence-based and low-risk healthcare options directly and discreetly in the community or people’s individual homes—like self-injectable contraception. Offering more convenience or more confidentiality, self-care approaches can enable early diagnosis and more timely medical care—like HIV self-testing.  

Self Care interventions are available to all sexes but women and girls have particular needs in these settings. Through focusing on a woman’s individual needs, they can also improve the quality of care that she receives: care that is appropriate, respectful and built on trust.  

For some women, Self Care may be the only safe alternative, without which they may be forced to seek unsafe services, or give up hope of care altogether. In the case of self-managed medication abortion to prevent an unsafe one, self-care can be lifesaving.   

 
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