The seven pillars of self care


The seven pillars of self care

July 24 marks International Self Care Day, but what exactly does this day recognize? Self-care is what people do to keep themselves healthy, whether that means staying active, taking over the counter drugs for minor ailments or just being informed and knowledgeable about your own health.

“Self Care Day was started in Shanghai and if you look at how they define self care, it’s really all of those things we do to stay healthy,” said Danielle Côté, director of communications for Consumer Health Products Canada, which represents manufacturers, marketers and distributors of consumer health products and is a promoter of Self Care Day in Canada. “It could be staying physically active, avoiding risk, taking medicine safely and following the labels and directions.”

According to the International Self Care Foundation, which is based in the United Kingdom but has a global focus, there are seven pillars to self-care.

They are: 1. Health literacy – the capacity of individuals to obtain, process and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions. 2. Self-awareness of physical and mental condition – knowing your body mass index (BMI), cholesterol level, blood pressure; engaging in health screening. 3. Physical activity – practicing moderate intensity physical activity such as walking, cycling, or participating in sports at a desirable frequency. 4. Healthy eating – having a nutritious, balanced diet with appropriate levels of calorie intake. 5. Risk avoidance or mitigation –quitting tobacco, limiting alcohol use, getting vaccinated, practicing safe sex, using sunscreens. 6. Good hygiene – washing hands regularly, brushing teeth, washing food. 7. Rational and responsible use of products, services, diagnostics and medicines – being aware of dangers, using responsibly when necessary.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has also defined self-care. “Self Care is what people do for themselves to establish and maintain health, and to prevent and deal with illness. It is a broad concept encompassing hygiene (general and personal), nutrition (type and quality of food eaten), lifestyle (sporting activities, leisure etc), environmental factors (living conditions, social habits, etc.) socio-economic factors (income level, cultural beliefs, etc.) and self-medication,” states the WHO.

So why is self-care important? According to Côté, there are many benefits, but a major one in Canada is alleviating part of the strain put on the healthcare system.

“Our basic story is that if more Canadians practiced self care, the less time they would spend in the doctors office and the more time we’d save up for those who do need doctor’s care,” she said. “It’s a theme we are trying to bolster and a conversation we’re trying to have with a whole bunch of different groups, from MPs, to consumers to media.”

Leading up to the International Self Care Day, Consumer Health Products Canada has been connecting with pharmacists, family doctors and families to help tell the story of self care, said Côté.

“How do people manage their own self-care? What is their decision-making process to manage these things on their own?” she said. “When look at broad definition of self care, everyone has a role to play. For us, it is trying to connect all of those people, the policy makers, the MPs, the health organizations and working closely with our members, the pharmaceutical companies, to try to raise that dialogue and start having some meaningful conversations on the incredible value self care has in a sustainable health care system.”

This article, written by Alberta-based freelance writer Dave S. Clark was originally published by Postmedia Network