Meds and you

23 July 2013

The significance of International Self-Care Day

The 24th of July is International Self-Care Day. South Africans are encouraged to make healthy lifestyle choices.

The 24th of July is International Self-Care Day and this year, South Africans will be encouraged to make healthy lifestyle choices, and draw on their existing knowledge and information available to them, to stay healthy and treat minor and long-term conditions. If this is the first time you’ve heard of International Self-Care Day, here’s why it bears notice.

In 2011, South Africa’s total expenditure on health was R248.6 billion, or 8.3% of GDP – significantly higher than the 5% recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
According to Allison Vienings, Executive Director of the Self-Medication Manufacturers Association of South Africa (SMASA), an independent organisation committed to promoting responsible self-care and self-medication to the South African public, an awareness of the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, coupled with proactive self-care, can help delay and ultimately reduce the burden of long-term healthcare costs.

“By making healthy lifestyle choices, and equipping themselves with the necessary knowledge to make confident decisions about their health, South Africans can stay healthy and prevent chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs).” 

NCDs leading cause of death

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), NCDs such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes are the leading cause of mortality in the world.

In South Africa, NCDs contribute 28% to the total burden of disease and place added strain on an already overburdened healthcare system as they demand ongoing medical attention over an extended period of time.

“NCDs are an under-appreciated cause of poverty and hinder the economic development of our country as they impact productivity,” says Vienings, “As eighty percent of premature heart disease, stroke and diabetes may be prevented through responsible self-care, SMASA strives to communicate the value of responsible self-care and self-medication to health professionals, health authorities and the public.”

However, as Vienings points out, healthcare professionals and government are powerless on their own to change people’s behaviour when it comes to unhealthy diets and obesity, smoking habits, lack of physical activity, etc.

“Developing better health must inevitably involve actions and measures lying outside current health systems,” she continues, “In other words, by people in the community. And we believe that self-care and self-medication by individuals themselves have a particularly important role to play.”
In addition to addressing healthcare costs, self-care can effectively help address the current doctor-to-population ratio in South Africa of one practising doctor for every 4 219 people.

“Equipped with the right knowledge, people are able to make confident decisions about their health and do not visit  their doctor unnecessarily,” says Vienings.

“And with over 100,000 non-prescription or over the counter (OTC) medicines and self-care knowledge readily available, we are well-equipped to take responsibility for our own health – and save money”, she adds.

That’s why SMASA is highlighting the importance of self-care in healthcare through International Self-Care Day. And this year, it is encouraging all South Africans to not only equip themselves with the right knowledge to practise self-care and self-medication repsonsibly, but also to give their medicine cabinets a health check and ensure that it has the essentials to maintain and where necessary, restore good health. The 24/7 Medicine Cabinet Checklist is available online at Alternatively, during the month of July, a list of essential OTC products will be available at participating pharmacies. 

The date chosen for International Self-Care Day is significant in itself because as Vienings concludes, “The benefits of self-care should be felt 24 hours a day, seven days a week, or 24/7.”

For more information about self-care and how you can improve your quality of health and life, visit the SMASA website www.smasa.

Press release, Self-Medication Manufacturers Association of South Africa

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