While many Filipinos understand the concept of self-care, not too many of them practice it properly.
According to Dr. Manuel Dayrit, former Dean of the Ateneo de Manila University School of Medicine and Public Health and former Health Secretary, self-care has personal, societal, and national implications in the Philippines. He said that Filipinos are naturally familiar with the concept of self-care but because of limited literacy and access, not everyone practices it.
He said they conducted a three-part study that tried to understand what self-care meant to Filipinos. One part was where they did a literature review, where they found very little was written about self-care in the country. He said most literature they found involved the use of herbal medicines and traditional practices. In the body of knowledge on self-care per se, very little had been done.
“What’s interesting is that the Universal Health Care [UHC] Law has a section, though it didn’t mention self-care, but health literacy, which means the ability of a person to find, evaluate and use information to make informed health care decisions. If you’re health literate, you can do that, which means a high level of discernment,” Dr. Dayrit said during the commemoration of the 11th International Self-Care Day held every July 24, and in celebration of the 75th anniversary of French-Filipino relations. Sanofi and the French Embassy in the Philippines organized “Health In Your Hands,” a self-care global awareness event that aims to highlight the importance of responsible self-care practices.
In terms of policy, Dr. Dayrit said the UHC law would be the pillar in promoting self-care in the country through promoting self-literacy.
The second part, he said, involved interviewing diverse types of people: farmers, community health workers, government executives, policymakers, pharmaceutical executives, and doctors. All were given various scenarios of various ailments and what they would do. The study revealed that people do practice self-care but with different approaches. “People in the rural areas rely more on herbs, the traditional things they were used to like using guava leaves for diarrhea.”
For those in the urban areas, it’s more of self-medication using over-the-counter (OTC) drugs. For others, it’s rest, hydration. “It showed that people practice self-care but in different ways, and also because of their context, their background, but self-care is practiced in the country,” Dr. Dayrit emphasized.
The third aspect of the study, he said, involved a nationwide survey with randomized samples, and people were also given a scenario and then were asked to decide what they are going to do. He said the attributes of the questions were: who would give them the cost of consultation, who would give them the travel time to the health center or doctor, and who would give them the time to recover.
The findings of the survey showed that first, people were concerned about avoiding costs when deciding, but Dr. Dayrit said it did not mean they would not go to a doctor. Second is time, where time is also translated to economics, where if one must see a doctor, a day’s wage is lost. “People would do self-care or endure the pain.”
He added that self-care is really everything, not just about physical. Though manifestation is physical, self-care is also about emotional and spiritual well-being. “If one’s stress levels is very high, it could lead to a certain ailment like hypertension,” he explained.
Self-care based on science
He emphasized that people should do self-care that is scientifically proven, do the practices that are scientifically proven, but warned that not all good practices are scientifically proven, so culture is involved. He cited the traditional practices, which should not be ignored since it’s been done for hundreds of years.
“Many of these practices have been done for a long time but it’s not scientifically supported since no studies were done, but they’re good, like virgin coconut oil, for example. They’ve been shown to have beneficial effects and don’t do any harm,” Dr. Dayrit pointed out.
According to Vanee Gosiengfiao, General Manager, Consumer Healthcare, Sanofi Philippines, they are advocating that self-care be practiced daily, saying that taking active charge of one’s own health has never been more important.
She said that at Sanofi, they are passionate about helping people lead healthier and fuller lives, and by celebrating International Self-Care Month, it serves as a reminder for everyone that health is in our hands.
“Self-care needs to be made part of our everyday lives from making healthy lifestyle choices, to self-recognition of symptoms, making responsible use of non-prescription medicines to self-monitoring and management. It plays a key role in empowering individuals, families, communities in managing their own wellbeing, and plays a positive impact on economies. It’s time that we unite toward adopting self-care, because self-care is shared care for everyone,” she said.