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Health Soc Care Community. 1999 Nov;7(6):445-454.

'Self-care' and its relevance to developing demand management strategies: a review of qualitative research.

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1
The National Primary Care Research and Development Centre, The University of Manchester, UK.

Abstract

The promotion of self-care has been recognized as an important aspect of managing demand for health care more effectively. Self-care is increasingly being seen by policy makers as a hidden health care resource to be viewed in the context of health care provided by the formal health care sector. Quantitative studies are important for understanding the effectiveness of interventions in terms of the impact they may have on health service utilization. However, questions remain about the reasons people may or may not adopt self-care, the mechanisms for change and the way in which social context may affect the way in which people respond to self-care interventions. Qualitative research that has focused on people's self-care practices provide insights into these aspects. The qualitative studies reviewed here suggest that a number of factors need to be considered when devising health care interventions for managing demand better. These include an assessment of the meaning of the disease to the person so that self-care information can be designed in a way that fits people's prior beliefs and lifestyles. Timing and the stage in a person's illness career are also important factors to consider when designing effective self-care interventions. Social interaction and the impact of significant others may affect whether or not a self-care regime is followed, and autonomy and control are also relevant to designing acceptable self-care strategies. Incorporating these aspects of self-care as a dynamic and interactive process is important for both devising and assessing the impact of interventions aimed at the better management of demand.

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