Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members


The concept of self-care in health is not new or complicated. It has existed for as long as humankind has known disease. Every time a parent puts antiseptic cream on a child’s scraped knee or a pack of ice on a bump on the head, or every time you decide to sleep off a headache or sip an electrolyte drink on a hot summer day, you practice self-care.

The World Health Organization[i] defines the word 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 worker.” In a world that has become all too aware of the immeasurable value of good health and the need to do whatever is possible to stay healthy, self-care must now assume even greater importance. It must be encouraged more consistently so that it becomes ingrained as a way of life.

Self-care requires that people take more responsibility for and control over their health. When people espouse self-care, they view themselves as active decision-makers in the management of their own health, instead of being just passive recipients of healthcare interventions and services. In many ways, modern science and technology have made personal healthcare far more accessible, effective, and sustainable.

In my view there are three strong pillars on which self-care rests, and which can be very helpful in supporting our individual efforts in enhancing our self-care efforts:

OTC remedies must be used responsibly: Today, there are many over-the-counter (OTC) products that can be used for symptomatic and short-term treatment of health conditions as well as many preventive solutions which can be taken by an individual to lead a healthier life. The responsible use of OTC products has been shown to reduce the economic burden on the health system in a country and can help to reduce out-of-pocket expenses, especially in a country like India where most people do not have adequate health insurance. Different countries have different sets of regulations that govern OTC products. OTC products may serve as a solution for a ‘problem’, for example, products to manage pain, common cold, headaches, or indigestion; or for ‘preventive health,’ for example, vitamins and mineral supplements to help people meet their daily requirement of micro-nutrients.

More knowledge for more empowerment: The right kind of self-care is only possible if people have adequate and accurate information about all of their health needs. Access to health literacy tools and healthcare information is a must to better inform people on how to lead a healthier, more productive, and more active life. It is logical to assume that the marked increase in internet penetration in India along with better access to smartphones would make it easier for people to stay informed; however, the sheer amount of (sometimes conflicting) information available online can seem overwhelming, complex, and add to the confusion and cluelessness. Adding to this confusion, content on social media and blogs may at times be biased, incomplete, and unstructured. There is need for more concerted efforts to provide people with the right health information and to bridge the awareness, knowledge and understanding gap so that people have the confidence to take charge of their own health.

Daily self-care as a must: Today we are leading lifestyles that have become increasingly sedentary, and compounded by high stress and poor dietary choices. Together, these have made a significant effect on the health of the community. However, the advent of trackers, wearables, weight loss apps, and fitness apps have made it easier for people to be aware of what needs to be done and have started them on the self-care route. Moreover, common ailments such as headaches, allergies, and mild infections that can potentially worsen a person’s quality of life and impact productivity can be prevented with responsible self-medication and reduce the burden on the healthcare system.

If done right and in a timely manner, self-care can help us reach the goal of reducing the burden on our country’s healthcare system and achieve our dream where every Indian has access to the healthcare they require. Self-care can also help us reduce the burden of non-communicable diseases which is a public health concern at this time. It is time now for self-care to become a part of our everyday life.

Authored By

Sandeep Verma, Country Head-India, Consumer Health Division, Bayer

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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