Recognition of Traditional Medicine and Practitioners Around the Globe: Recent Advances

Two interrelated media themes relative to traditional world medicines around the globe are, on the one hand, individuals or organizations of traditional healers calling for more recognition and regulation; and on the other, announcements from one country or another of some new formal status. A recent example of the former was in Cameroon when, on African Alternative Medicine Day, practitioners promoted regulation. More rarely, though not infrequently, one sees notice of governmental action.

The World Health Organization (WHO) called for such increased regulation and inclusion of these practices and practitioners in the Traditional Medicine Strategy: 2014-2023 as part of its mission to achieve primary carefor all. On Africa Traditional Medicine Day, Matshidiso Moeti, MD, WHO’s regional director for Africa, pushed the campaign. He issued a letter urging governments to strengthen regulatory bodies for traditional health practitioners: “The benefits of traditional medicine are evident to all, [but] there is no doubt proper regulation is essential to the provision of quality, safe and effective healthcare products and services.”

United Arab EmiratesA highlight of formal regulation in the past 3 months wasthe decision by the UAE (pictured) Ministry of Health to “adopt 90 new complementary medicines as part of a strategy to include herbal and traditional medicines into mainstream healthcare systems. The Zambian cabinet has reportedly approved a bill to regulate traditional medicines that the Traditional Healers and Practitioners Association of Zambia (THPAZ) is backing. At the state level, in Oregon, USA, the Medicaid plan to provide services to those less well-off is now covering integrative pain treatment from licensed acupuncturists, massage therapists,chiropractors, and naturopathic doctors. In the not-quite-there department, regulation of traditional medicine doctorsis said to be near in Botswana according to this article.

On the regulatory, rather than the legislative side, notice went out from Kuala Lampur’s Health Deputy Director-General (Medical) Datuk Dr Jeyaindran Sinnadurai that the Traditional and Complementary Medicine Act 2013 “is expected to be enforced “at the latest” by mid-2016. There are reportedly some 13,000 registered practitioners of traditional and complementary medicine in the country, 8000 of whom are Chinese traditional medicine practitioners.

HerbsOther government action, while neither legislative nor formally regulatory, saw an Indian state health department advisory offering recommendations for use of traditional medicines with cases of Dengue. In Rwanda, the official in charge of prevention of liver diseases at Rwanda Biomedical Centre called for more research on the ability of traditional medicine to cure Hepatitis B and C.” In Upper Pradesh, India, a governmental scientific council approved an Ayurvedic remedy for diabetes (including the herbs pictured) following clinical drug trials that found that “around 67% of patients showed normal blood sugar levels within 3 to 4 days of drug usage.” Also on the therapy side, in Heviz, Hungary, a lake’s healing waters were “accredited.” And notably, the state health department in Kottayam, India, is “planning to open Yoga training centres at Secretariat and Assembly complex for legislators and other staff.” Thes ewill be run by graduates in naturopathy and Yogic science. Another step toward inclusion in the direct involvement of traditional healers in dealing with Ebola in this story about hard-hit Sierra Leone.

On the other side of the ledger, The National Health Service in England is considering banning inclusion of homeopathy prescriptions under the national plan.

Comment: Taken together, these affirmative actions suggest an organic knitting together of forces for global health that have been estranged, mistrusting, and separated. As we in the global north approach the winter solstice, this rapprochement feels like a sign of the coming of the light.

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