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Self Care Week is upon us again, running from today until Sunday 24th Nov. The theme this year is ‘Choose Self Care for Life’.
It’s an opportunity to reflect on whether we want or need to make changes to our lifestyles. That makes it sound quite easy and frankly, many of us could probably take a few simple steps to take better care of ourselves such as eating more fruit or exercising a little more frequently.
It’s not always as easy as that though. The truth is, not everyone is in a position to take good care of themselves and what’s more, there is differing amounts of support available depending on how much you have to spend.
At the top end where the more affluent patient/consumer resides, self care/wellness is big business. In fact, it has spawned a lucrative industry; in April the Global Wellness Institute reported the wellness industry is currently worth £4.2 trillion. If you are lucky enough to be in the 1%, how about buying a million-pound crystal bath tub? Tamara Ecclestone, daughter of Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone did so earlier this year in the name of crystal healing. And what about GOOP, Gwyneth Paltrow’s luxury lifestyle website which recently promoted recycled loo paper for $48 per roll. Bargain, and do your bit for the environment whilst you are at it. Gwynnie is having the last laugh though, according to Wikipedia GOOP was valued at $250 million last year.
Self care is a very different story for those living at the other end of the spectrum. Last year during Self Care Week I blogged about how we could all take better care of ourselves and one colleague commented:
Thanks Rosemary. I agree, we could all take better care of ourselves. I do think it is important to recognise that people need the capacity to look after their own health, which is often limited by the social and economic environment in which they find themselves. Not everyone has the same opportunity to lead a healthy lifestyle. Making the point that most of what influences health is often beyond individual control, the University of Bristol have published an 'alternative' list of top tips for health:
It‘s a sobering if not depressing read. For many, basic needs are not being met. How can the poorest in society be expected to engage in self care if poverty prevents them from doing so? How can you drive to the job that pays all the bills if you can’t afford a car? How can you eat healthy nutritious meals if you can’t afford them?
Even putting food on the table, one of the most basic needs of all is too hard for some; from April 2018 to March 2019 the Trussle Fund gave out a record 1.6m food bank parcels. And according to a report by the Social Metrics Foundation in July 2019 there are 14.3 million people in poverty in the UK. This includes 8.3 million working-age adults, 4.6 million children and 1.3 million pension-age adults. What’s more, 4.5 million people are more than 50% below the poverty line, and this proportion has not changed since the millennium. Hardly surprising then, that in April 2019 Professor Philipp Alston, a special rapporteur for the UN wrote up a report following a tour of the UK in which he claimed poverty in the UK was systemic and tragic.
With a general election looming, politicians are pledging how they will help and what they are going to do for the NHS and other public services. Ultimately self care places the onus on the individual to make the effort but for some getting by is hard enough, self care is a luxury. Here’s hoping politicians keep their election promises.