This section collates recent developments impacting the health sector in India.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Government of India on Friday signed an agreement to establish the WHO Global Centre for Traditional Medicine. The onsite launch of the new centre in Jamnagar, Gujarat will take place on April 21, 2022.
The centre will be a global knowledge centre for traditional medicine, supported by an investment of USD 250 million from the Indian government. It aims to harness the potential of traditional medicine from across the world through modern science and technology to improve the health of people and the planet.
To date, 170 of the 194 WHO member States have reported the use of traditional medicine, and their governments have asked for WHO’s support in creating a body of reliable evidence and data on traditional medicine practices and products. Around 80 per cent of the world’s population is estimated to use traditional medicine, WHO says.
“For many millions of people around the world, traditional medicine is the first port of call to treat many diseases,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “Ensuring all people have access to safe and effective treatment is an essential part of WHO’s mission, and this new center will help to harness the power of science to strengthen the evidence base for traditional medicine.”
The term traditional medicine describes the total sum of the knowledge, skills and practices indigenous and different cultures have used over time to maintain health and prevent, diagnose and treat physical and mental illness. Its reach encompasses ancient practices such as acupuncture, ayurvedic medicine and herbal mixtures as well as modern medicines.
Yet, today’s national health systems and strategies do not yet fully integrate the millions of traditional medicine workers, accredited courses, health facilities, and health expenditures.
Welcoming the signing of the host country agreement of the establishment of Global Centre for Traditional Medicine (GCTM) between Ministry of Ayush and the WHO, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “Through various initiatives, our government has been tireless in its endeavour to make preventive and curative healthcare, affordable and accessible to all. May the global centre at Jamnagar help in providing the best healthcare solutions to the world.”
Traditional medicine is also increasingly prominent in the world of modern science. Some 40 per cent of approved pharmaceutical products in use today derive from natural substances, highlighting the vital importance of conserving biodiversity and sustainability. For example, the discovery of aspirin drew on traditional medicine formulations using the bark of the willow tree, the contraceptive pill was developed from the roots of wild yam plants, and child cancer treatments have been based on the rosy periwinkle. Nobel-prize winning research on artemisinin for malaria control started with a review of ancient Chinese medicine texts.
The new WHO centre will focus on four main strategic areas: evidence and learning; data and analytics; sustainability and equity; and innovation and technology to optimize the contribution of traditional medicine to global health and sustainable development.