Tuesday - July 24, 2018

Health Yourself – why you should care about self-care

We’ve seen significant advances in modern medicine, however, consistent with our growing and ageing population and our modern lifestyles, chronic disease is on the rise. Find out what you can do to look after yourself.

Self-care refers to activities undertaken to manage and enhance health, prevent disease and restore health. When you meal-prep, exercise regularly, treat a cold or look for health advice online, you are actively practicing self-care.

 

Why the focus on self-care?

We’ve seen significant advances in modern medicine, however, consistent with our growing and ageing population and our modern lifestyles, chronic disease is on the rise.

According to AIHW, 6.2 per cent of all Australian hospital admissions were preventable in 2013-2014, with the majority of admissions due to poor self-management of chronic conditions. The need to take ownership of our health has never been more important. To do this, Aussies need access to high quality, fact-based advice and resources and the ability to understand it.

 

However, self-care doesn’t mean you’re on your own. We want to see a change from where Australians stop mainly seeking care when they’re already unwell, to where people are given the tools to proactively manage their health and enable them to decide when to seek advice from an appropriate healthcare professional.

 

The secret to smart self-care

Two words: health literacy. Knowledge is power – this is especially true when it comes to your health. Knowledge is crucial in minimising health risks and driving better health outcomes. If we don’t make the effort to learn and understand basic health information, we are unable to ask the right questions or understand the implications of our own and others’ decisions on our health, and take action.

 

Australia’s Health IQ – room for improvement

In the lead up to International Self-Care Day, July 24th, we carried out a national survey titled Health Yourself to dig a little deeper into Australia’s health literacy and self-care knowledge. The results highlight we have a lot to learn as a nation. The three main issues we found are a lack of understanding of health risk factors, a heavy reliance on health professionals for minor ailments, and a worrying lack of knowledge around our nutritional needs. An overview of the full findings can be found here.

 

Lack of understanding around risk factors

Our findings showed that there is a concerning lack of knowledge around risk factors for illness and disease. We know that approximately 32% of Australia’s total burden of disease can be attributed to modifiable risk factors, however:

- Almost two thirds of 18-24 year olds didn’t know that smoking is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease
Only 1 in 4 Australians have had a skin check in the past 5 years
48% of mums thought that the norovirus (gastro) can only be spread up to 24 hours after symptoms stop, rather than the correct 2 days

 

As a company committed to supporting the health and wellbeing of all Australians, we want to shine a light on these results. Ensure you take the time to improve your knowledge of risk factors, and follow up with healthcare professionals if you’re unsure. Here are some useful online resources to get you started:

Information about common conditions and treatments (BetterHealth VIC)

Information about chronic conditions (Department of Health)

Getting your skin checked (Cancer Council NSW)

Be WinterWise – tips to stop the spread of cold and flu (NSW Health)

 

Are Australians relying too heavily on health professionals?

The role of GPs and medical professionals is more important than ever, with 52% of survey respondents relying on medical professionals for advice on staying healthy. However, survey findings showed that 20% of Australians see a GP for minor ailments such as a simple cold, suggesting a lack of awareness of available self-care options for symptomatic relief, and increasing the chance of being prescribed unnecessary antibiotics. Here are some resources we think are a good start to figuring out what level of care is necessary:

Symptom checker (healthdirect)

Colds and flus – when to see a doctor (ABC News)

 

Aussies need to eat more veggies

Nutrition is key to overall health and wellbeing and it is an aspect of our health over which we have full control. Many diseases and conditions can be prevented or managed with a healthy diet. It comes as a surprise that one in three Australians doesn’t know the recommended daily intake of fruit and veg – 2 servings of fruit, and 5 servings of vegetables. Yes, five! This needs to change. Here are some great links to get you started:

What do serving sizes look like? Fruit, vegetables, dairy and grains (Department of Health)

Everyday ways to make healthy eating normal (NSW Health)

Healthy Eating Pyramid (Nutrition Australia)

 

Where to next?

Globally, we are working with governments and NGOs to address the most pressing needs to improve self-care. In Australia, we have established strong partnerships with organisations such as Nutrition Australia, the Centenary Institute and Australian Self Medication Industry.

 

We hope you have been inspired to take control of your health, improve your health literacy and, above all, practice smart self-care. If you’re looking for online resources to support you in your journey to ‘Health Yourself’, we recommend making use of the trusted websites throughout.

 

Better yet, you can start by creating creating a self-care plan or checking free health initiatives and programs.

 

Happy health-ing!