Terrific SciDevNet Review of Issues as Traditional Medicine Meets the Modern World

SciDevNet is an internet portal that announces itself as “the world’s leading source of reliable and authoritative news, views and analysis on information about science and technology for global development.” A mid–July 2015 article,Traditional medicine and modern times: facts and figures, lives up to the name. The piece, by Andrea Rinaldi and Priya Shetty, dips into a series of key themes. Achart on the importance of herbs in medicine shows pharmaceutical drugs derived from plants. A segment looks at conservation issues for both plants and animal sthat are harvested for medicinal use. One table introduces key differences between traditional and modern medicine in such areas as regulation,formulation, dosage, and knowledge protection. They highlight the model, respectful relationship on intellectual property between a products company and the San people in South Africa covered in The Global Integrator Blog as South Africa’s San People Find a Respectful Partner for Marketing a Sacred Herb. Key World Health Organization (WHO) data are reviewed on the level of regulation and education. Controversies are noted. The piece updates the authors’ June 2010 piece entitled “Integrating modern and traditional medicine: facts and figures.”

Comment: The piece is also good in its links to more in-depth dialogues provoked by this rich intersection. One, for instance, jumps to a prior SciDevNet piece entitled “Indigenous knowledge is also a science—don’t ignore it.” The author of that piece argues that for global health development, “The logical approach would be to rely largely on indigenous medicine and include the Western system where needed.” Another link takes one to a WHO-published piece on the ethics of research on traditional medicines coauthored by Harvard’s TCM and placebo expert, Ted Kaptchuk.

For organizations in the integrative health and medicine field that are emerging with an intended global reach and impact—I think of the US-based Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine as well as the mission of Global Advances in Health and Medicine—this is great fodder for reflection. If one seeks, as in the case of Global Advances, to “catalyze whole-person and whole-systems care and healing,” might some of that role be targeted into the dozen areas listed in “Figure 2: Deficit areas that limit effective regulation of T & C medicine, ranked by number of WHO states”? Bringout the whiteboards, please!

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