People across Sunderland are being supported to understand the “self care” skills required to enhance their lives and those of loved ones.

Through All Together Better Sunderland – an NHS funded programme that brings health and social care together along with other support agencies and local charities – a range of organisations who deliver and support ‘self care’ in the city are working together to increase everyone’s understanding of what ‘self care’ actually means as well as provide more opportunities for people to take control of their health and well being.

From 13 – 19 November it is national ‘Self Care Week’ and the partnership is working to focus attention on the benefits of ‘self-care’ in order to help local people take control of their own good health and wellbeing better.

Dr Fadi Khalil, clinical lead – Out of Hospital programme, said: “People sometimes don’t realise that healthcare only actually influences up to 25% of the population’s health; over half of how well someone can be is within their own control and in Sunderland and South Tyneside we are working with people to help them understand that by simply improving their own self care, they can lead a healthier, happier life.

“Most understand that eating well and taking exercise is really important to a person’s health, but we are also encouraging good mental health and emotional well-being through opportunities to improve social interaction. Importantly, we are focusing on support for people who have long term conditions and their carers. For these people self care may not be so easy and can mean other things, like properly managing medication or getting access to new technologies that might help them deal with their condition better.”

Evidence shows that people who take good care of their own health and wellbeing live longer, better, happier lives. A staggering 50% of a person’s health can be influenced by activities they can control, while only up to 25% can be influenced by health and social care professionals.

The Self Care Sunderland Partnership is focusing attention on the benefits of ‘self-care’ in order to help local people take control of their own good health and wellbeing in a more proactive way.

Things like quitting smoking, adopting a healthier diet, cutting down on alcohol and learning how to cope with stress can have a hugely beneficial impact.  When self care activities are adopted, and people’s general health improves, the benefits can also ultimately have a positive impact by reducing pressure on overstretched public services.

The families and carers of those supporting people with long-term conditions can also reap rewards. If the person they look after is physically and emotionally more healthy it means that caring for them is easier. At the same time, if carers learn to look after themselves better they able to cope with the challenges of being a carer.

Dr Khalil added: “One size does not fit all and, by working closely with individuals, we identify what works for them – for example, we know some people prefer small changes, a “one step at a time” approach. This is not about embarking on a strict diet or applying to do the great north run!

“In other cases people might need one-to-one support to provide the skills and confidence to make positive changes. Some people will be keen and able to plan and make changes themselves.

“We know that, by providing the right level of support, at the right pace, people can make the greatest improvements in their own health and well being.”

Health and social care staff, as well as a wide range of our community and voluntary partners from across the city are being mobilised to support people to understand how to look after themselves. The partnership aims to improve and expand self care by sharing experiences and knowledge; exploring new techniques and technologies and avoiding duplication of work.