WASHINGTON, July 24 (Xinhua) -- The third International Self- Care Day was celebrated on Thursday in Washington with experts in attendance promoting healthy lifestyles such as regular exercise and avoiding smoking and responsible use of over-the-counter (OTC) medicines as a "very useful weapon" in the fight against chronic diseases.
"Despite some progress in recognizing the crucial role of self- care, it is still not seen as an integral part of effective healthcare systems," said Zhenyu Guo, chairman and founder of the International Self-Care Foundation, a nonprofit organization that focuses on the promotion of self-care worldwide.
"Its benefits are also not sufficiently appreciated by the general public to make a tangible difference," said Guo, who is also founder of the International Self-Care Day.
In the view of Guo, self-care is "a very useful weapon" in the fight against noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), including cancer, diabetes, chronic respiratory and cardiovascular problems, which represent more than three out of every five annual deaths worldwide.
"The good thing is that NCDs are preventable to a large extent through better self-care," he said. "Up to 80 percent of heart disease, stroke and type-2 diabetes and over a third of cancers could be prevented by individuals avoiding risks such as tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and the harmful use of alcohol."
Guo described helping people to have healthier lives by practicing self-care as a "triple win."
"A win for people because they can enjoy healthier, more productive lives and can prevent or delay the onset of NCDs; a win for stakeholders in the healthcare sector, including healthcare professionals, healthcare services, and healthcare products, through better outcomes and more empowered patients; a win for governments: a healthier, more productive populations and reduced pressure on healthcare services and budgets," he added.
Scott Melville, CEO of the U.S.-based Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA), the host of the event, said his group 's research shows that for every U.S. dollar spent on self-care OTC medicines, the U.S. healthcare system saves six to seven dollars.
"There are powerful forces reshaping healthcare in the U.S. and across the globe, and they are elevating the role of OTC medicines. There's both a consumer desire and an economic imperative to increase access to self-care options," said Melville.
"More self-care and responsible use of self-care tools like OTC medicines allow consumers to better manage their overall health in the long term and save money at the same time," he added.
The event in the U.S. Capitol also had in attendance U.S. Congressman John Barrow, World Self-Medication Industry (WSMI) chair and president of Bayer HealthCare's Consumer Care division, Erica Mann, CHPA chair and senior vice president of Merck Consumer Care, Jim Mackey, and CEO of Sjogren's Syndrome Foundation, Steven Taylor.
The participants also urged the U.S. Congress to pass a legislation to allow Americans to once again use tax-preferred savings accounts, including flexible spending arrangements and health savings accounts, to purchase OTC products.
In 2011, the U.S. Congress removed OTC medicine eligibility under these accounts, unless the medicine was purchased with a doctor's prescription.
The International Self-Care Day was initiated in China in 2012 by Zhenyu Guo, who preceded Mann as the chairman of the WSMI. The date, July 24, signifies that the benefits of self-care are experienced seven days a week, 24 hours a day.
Since 2012, self-care activities related to International Self- Care Day have been organized around the world in countries such as Mexico, South Africa, Switzerland and Vietnam. On Wednesday, the U. S. Senate approved a resolution, designating July 24, 2014 as " National Self-Care Day."