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Promoting Wellness with Self-Care

With self-care, patients take charge of their own health by making decisions based on evidence-based facts. [1] This awareness helps patients practice preventive medicine and detect health threats early.

Woman reading a label in a grocery store.

Arthritis, asthma, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease are the costliest illnesses that afflict the United States population. These conditions can be attributed to smoking, poor health behavior, poor diet, alcohol abuse, and a lack of sufficient physical activity.

Chronic diseases affect nearly half of all Americans, cause seven out of every 10 deaths, and generate 75 percent of all medical expenses. [2] They are the most frequently diagnosed conditions and the most preventable.

Patients practice self-care in several ways, including exercise, proper diet, weight management, preventive care, proper rest, and other health behaviors.

The number of patients diagnosed with a chronic condition rises steadily in the United States. The rate of chronic diagnoses has jumped from 10 to 60 percent over the last 60 years. During this same period, medical expenses have nearly tripled, rising from 7 to 20 percent of the gross domestic product.

Several variables have contributed to the declining health of the American population. Only 20 to 25 percent of traditional medical practices are backed by empirical evidence. Educational institutions, mass media, and workplaces make little effort to teach individuals about health and disease prevention. Additionally, care providers have historically overlooked self-care and preventive health practices as significant treatment resources, and most insurers have failed to reward care providers for delivering preventive medical services to the population.

How Did We Get Here?

Prescription drug manufacturers have invested heavily in maintaining the status quo of treatment-based medicines. They have siphoned billions of dollars into media campaigns that support treatments requiring drugs that physicians prescribe only after patients contract illnesses. Additionally, the manufacturers have invested heavily in lobbying government officials to promote an environment where drug companies flourish.

In the past, these circumstances have eclipsed the movement toward preventive treatments. This is despite the fact that researchers have compiled many studies that support self-care and preventive medicine as a better alternative for population health.

The Importance of Self-Care

While nearly all health spending goes toward treatment-based services, only 5 percent goes toward preventive medicine, and more than 80 percent of these conditions are preventable with the proper interventions. This factor alone contributes to the reason why the United States population generates more medical expenses compared with all other nations. The population has grown complacent with relying on treatment-based services but contracts more illnesses and has a shorter average lifespan.

Self-care obviously extends beyond the patient-doctor relationship. Many preventive practices can improve the quality of life and health of the population. Individuals’ self-care regimens might include lifestyle choices and health education that various stakeholders pursue with different levels of interest and dedication. More than any other factor, a person’s dedication to improving his or her own health dictates self-care effectiveness.

A Closer Look at Self-Care

The American population in general makes poor food choices. In fact, most citizens make poor eating choices for 11 of the 14 food categories. This is in large part responsible for the meteoric rise in chronic condition diagnoses among the population—from 10 to 60 percent over the last 60 years.

To promote public wellness, nurses can introduce patients to self-care during office visits. Self-care can also help patients manage existing chronic conditions. Patients with existing conditions will likely have an interest in both traditional and preventive medical treatments. Consequently, some care provider organizations provide both types of treatments in the same facility.

Nurses can also advise patients how to stay informed about the latest preventive medicine information by recommending credible healthcare websites and magazines. It’s up to today’s nurses to coach patients in learning as much as possible about how to care for themselves.

Nurses can empower patients to live healthy lifestyles and participate in their own care. [1] This could involve simply pointing patients toward one of the many resources that publish wellness information. By doing so, today’s savvy nurses can help to reduce medical expenses on a national scale while helping people learn to maintain their health.

Learn More

Adventist University started building its solid foundation for nursing education in 1908 when it began training nurses so healthcare could be provided for more people. Today they offer cutting edge education and experienced faculty dedicated to helping individuals interested in pursuing a bachelor of science in nursing degree.

Recommended Readings

What is Population Health?
Obesity Causes and Prevention Strategies
TeleHealth Technology Saving Money and Lives Around the World