Self-care in health: we can define it, but should we also measure it?

  • Webber D
  • Guo Z
  • Mann S
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Definitions of self-care in health are intended to influence health care policy by focussing attention on what behaviours can be encouraged to benefit public health. To serve this purpose such definitions are succinct but broadly drafted to encompass the full range of behaviours implied by the term. Current definitions have common themes (such as disease prevention) but differ in specific aspects (e.g. explicit inclusion of self-medication). At the level of the individual, defining what self-care means may have a different purpose. By exposing people to the full array of behaviours for which there is a strong evidence base, we might audit their behaviour against an ideal benchmark and derive a prioritised action plan personal to them. We propose a research agenda which would explore the domains, behaviours, weightings and measures of self-care in healthy people in order to develop an index of overall self-care behaviour and thereby identify an individual’s self-care deficit. This in turn could be used to generate a prioritised action plan for behaviour change. The ability to quantify self-care behaviour and self-care deficits may be an important driver to healthcare policy to set alongside evolving definitions of self-care.

Author-supplied keywords

  • definition
  • measurement
  • self care

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  • David Webber

  • Zhenyu Guo

  • Stephen Mann

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