Recent developments in health practices that were once in the full control of healthcare professionals and can now be safely self-administered have created a shift in thinking about how individuals engage in self-care. New commodities and drug regimens for self-management and self-testing, combined with promoting and encouraging self-awareness of one’s own health has the potential to increase access to and reach of services and move health systems towards the goal of universal health care.
With the expansion of mobile phones, smart phone applications, internet access and artificial intelligence people are discovering new ways to engage in self-care. Digital platforms offer a means to facilitate and promote self-care that provide privacy for individuals who may otherwise be subjected to stigma and discrimination when seeking care and services in the formal health care system. Digital tools can function both as the delivery mechanism and the self-care intervention itself.
To support this evolution the Self-Care Trailblazer Group partnered with HealthEnabled to facilitate the development of a framework to provide practical guidance for effectively designed, implemented and researched digital health in support of self-care. The Digital SelfCare Framework maps the common touch-points of these two areas and highlights the considerations and research questions needed to inform policy and implementation in low- and middle-income countries. This Framework offers practical guidance for health program implementers, digital health developers and implementers, advocates and policymakers. It is based on findings from a desk review; key informant interviews and case studies of current evidence, experiences and best practices to accelerate, enhance and measure the impact of digital self-care interventions. Using sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) as a lens to provide case studies and examples of issues and opportunities for digital self-care throughout the document, the Framework can be applied across most health areas. It builds on relevant frameworks and resources from self-care, digital health and the emerging intersection of the two.
The development of this Framework has been concurrent with the Covid-19 pandemic, stimulating the movement for health to transition towards self-care, digital health and digital self-care.