PAHO Initiates NicaraguaInitiative on Integrative, Traditional, and Complementary Therapies with US,Australian, and Spanish Partner Organizations

Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)In a remarkable first, Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has announced amajor, multi-party, global initiative to advance the integration of traditional and complementary medicine into a national health system. The nation at stake is the second poorest in the Western Hemisphere, Nicaragua.

The driving force behind the series of December 2015 meetings in Managua is Maria Socorro Gross, MD (on the left in the photo), the representative in Managua of the PAHO and of the World Health Organization (WHO). The parties met in a workshop conducted through the Nicaraguan Institute for Natural Medicine and Complementary Therapies, established in December 2014. The purpose was described as “capacity building in research and access to information to integrate natural medicine into the health system.” The aim is “contributing to the strengthening of the Model of Family and Community Health.” Key health local health officials attended.

The meeting included the signing of Memoranda of Understanding with the National College of Natural Medicine (Portland, Oregon, USA), Australian Research Centre on Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the University of Technology (Sidney, Australia), the Program Philippus del Real Centro Universitario Escorial-María Cristina (Spain), and Natural Doctors International (NDI – Portland,Oregon, USA, and Ometepe, Nicaragua). The representatives of the international organizations included Tabatha Parker, ND (NDI, NCNM) and Jon Wardle, ND (Australia; pictured below). The goal: “strengthen the comprehensive approach to health care, to provide users with access to services natural medicine,respectful, affordable, safe and effective.”

Socorro GrossComment: One of the most remarkable aspects of this activity is the person behind it. Socorro Gross has more than 20 years in significant leadership promoting WHO’s primary care mission. She has served with PAHO/WHO since 1994 in positions in Columbia, the Dominican Republic, and most significantly in Washington, DC, as the subdirector of PAHO. Perhaps the initiative in Nicaragua will prove a precursorto an expansion.

At the founding of Nicaragua’s integrative care Institute a year ago, the nation’s controversial president, Daniel Ortega, and his spouse, Rosario Murillo—who serves the government as Coordinator of the Communication Council—stated that the interest is in a health system that “promotes a comprehensive service.” To them that means “to use natural medicine to supplement Western conventional medicine.” The services of a Vietnamese acupuncturist were highlighted as an example of the new direction.

Finally, quite interesting to see the team that was present. The Global Integrator Blog previously published this Report from Daniel Gallego-Perez, MD, at APHA: Creating a Database on Integrative Research in Colombia.

Gallego-Perez is completing a doctorate in public health at Boston University with his thesis focused on these very developments. Parker is a cofounder of NDI who, with Wardle, is a leader in efforts to gain WHO recognition for the naturopathic profession. This activity is potent for Nicaragua, potentially for the PAHO region, and definitely for the emerging globalization of the naturopathic health field.

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