The launch of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Global Centre for Traditional Medicine (GCTM) on April 19 in Jamnagar, India, marked the beginning of a bold new chapter for efforts in the Southeast Asia region and across the world to leverage the potential of traditional medicine (TRM) to advance Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3 on ensuring health and wellbeing for all at all ages.
Globally, around 80 per cent of people access TRM. A total of 170 WHO member states report the use of TRM and around 40 per cent of pharmaceuticals are originated from traditional natural products.
Not only is TRM an increasingly significant part of the growing trillion-dollar global health, wellness, beauty, health tourism and pharmaceutical industries, but it continues to be a common source of preventive, promotive and affordable curative health for billions of people who may have minimal contact with health care services, especially beyond the primary level.
In the Southeast Asia region and across the world, TRM must continue to be a critical tool in promoting a healthier, fairer and more sustainable future for all, in line with the WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy 2014-2023, and in keeping with the cultural practices and knowledge systems that have advanced the health and wellbeing of so many people over so many years.
How exactly will the government of India-supported GCTM contribute to these outcomes?
First, the GCTM will serve as a hub of excellence in generating evidence and promoting learning on traditional medicine, uniting ancient wisdom and modern science in pursuit of evidence-based medical care. In particular, the GCTM will explore how new and advanced technologies like artificial Intelligence (AI) and digital technology can support the delivery of safe and effective TRM and help develop a standard framework for validating the efficacy of TRM interventions.
Second, the GCTM will lead the global quest for high-quality data and analytics on an array of TRM products and practices, while at the same time facilitating the innovation and technological advances required to deliver safe, effective and evidence-based TRM to all who access and utilise it, leaving no one behind.
Third, the GCTM will prioritise the sustainable development of TRM, including by developing a common tool for preserving and protecting TRM knowledge and biodiversity and by building national capacity in this regard. TRM systems have been and continue to be holistic in their approach, recognising the synergistic relationship between human and planetary health and the importance of preserving biodiversity – a key focus of the theme of this year’s World Health Day: “Our planet, our health”.
Fourth, the GCTM will accelerate innovation by leveraging the full potential of advanced science and technologies such as digital information management systems, mobile apps, AI and other platforms and technologies.
In promoting these and other objectives, the GCTM will accelerate the region’s significant progress in integrating safe, effective and evidence-based TRM into health service delivery, complementing the allopathic system of medicine. This will be especially important in preventing and controlling the growing burden of noncommunicable diseases and advancing mental health in the region and globally.
All countries of the region now have in place national policies on TRM. Nine countries of the region have implemented formal training and education systems for TRM practitioners. Six countries have co-located TRM services in their health systems at some or all levels. Five countries have national essential medicine policies on TRM and provide insurance coverage for TRM services.
In all countries of the region, performance monitoring, pharmacovigilance and enhanced regulation and research capacity continue to be core priorities, embedded in the region-wide quest to achieve universal health coverage, the flagship priority and SDG target that underpins all others.
WHO commends the government of India’s leadership, financial and operational commitment to the GCTM and to achieving the core objectives of the WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy: building our knowledge base; strengthening quality assurance, safety and effectiveness; and promoting UHC through the appropriate integration of TRM into health service delivery.
WHO urges all stakeholders in the region and globally to contribute towards and leverage the potential of the GCTM, with full appreciation of the government of India’s ongoing commitment to the wisdom and solidarity embodied in the philosophy of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam: The world is one family.
Poonam Khetrapal Singh is regional director of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Southeast Asia.
THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK