Australians will achieve better health outcomes when self-care is a priority of the healthcare system and federal government policy, says the Director of the National Centre for Naturopathic Medicine at SCU, Jon Wardle.
Professor Wardle has co-authored Self-care for Health: A National Policy Blueprint, which outlines a range of environmental, economic and social factors to drive self-care capability.
The report was developed in collaboration with over 50 experts in health, self-care and policy from around the country, and was launched in conjunction with federal Health Minister Greg Hunt.
The blueprint highlights self-care as ‘a focus on the actions of individuals’, but notes ‘the underlying drivers of self-care are complex and include environmental, economic and social factors that sit beyond the individual’.
It details the critical importance of self-care and urges government, health professionals, service providers and the public to recognise its role in achieving and maintaining good health.
Dual perspective needed
Professor Wardle said it’s crucial that self-care is approached from a dual perspective.
‘One perspective must be focused on the individual’s capacity to self-care, and the other focused on how self-care is supported within our health care system and government policy,’ he said.
‘It is equally important to recognise the need to have both well-resourced and supported patients and well-equipped practitioners who are empowered to adequately support and educate their patients.’
Professor Wardle said self-care could be better supported in healthcare systems more broadly.
‘The naturopathic approach to patient care helps patients become agents in improving their own health, which is often left underdeveloped in other health professions,’ said Professor Wardle.
‘The six core principles underpinning naturopathic medicine have this concept built in.
‘For example, the principle “doctor as teacher” instils into naturopathic practitioners the importance of educating patients and the public to take a more active role in their health care, and the importance of “meeting the patient where they are at” to build their own capacity to have more agency and autonomy in their treatment journey.’
Professor Wardle said, ‘Naturopaths are guided in their approach by a therapeutic hierarchy – prioritising low-level interventions where possible – that encourages self-care as much as possible.
‘And of course, health promotion and prevention are at the core of naturopathic approaches to healthcare.’
The National Centre for Naturopathic Medicine has a strong focus on self-care and is already addressing some of the priority policy actions outlined in the blueprint.