WHO’s Traditional Medicine Strategy to deliver Universal Health Coverage

Health Ministers and policy makers from the 11 Member States of the WHO South-East Asia Region medicine in a ministerial conference in Dhaka discussed ways to integrate traditional medicines from countries of the Region into their national health care systems. The Ministers attended the Sixty-seventh Session of the WHO Regional Committee for South-East Asia.

The meeting in Dhaka follows the Delhi Declaration released last year in which the 11 countries in the region agreed to “cooperate, collaborate and provide mutual support” to each other in traditional medicine. The WHO has adopted a 10-year strategy for 2014 to 2023 that seeks to strengthen the safety, quality and effectiveness of traditional medicine drugs through regulation.

In the past decade, most countries in the Region have put in considerable effort to promote the safe and effective use of traditional medicine. Ten of the 11 countries of the Region have national policies on traditional medicine, six have regulations on traditional medicine practitioners and nine have an education system for traditional medicines in place. Though much progress has been made, it has been unequal.

Traditional medicine system practices in countries of the Region, include AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy) in India, Sowa Rigpa in Bhutan, Jamu in Indonesia; Koryo in Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; Ayurveda, Unani in Bangladesh; Desana, Bhesijja, Netkhatta and Vijjadhara in Myanmar; Ayurveda, Unani and Amchi in Nepal and Deshiya Chikitsa and Sidhha in Sri Lanka. Homeopathy is practiced in many countries.

Even though several WHO technical committees and advisory bodies underscored the importance of the ancient wisdom on healthcare, this is for the first time the ministers would decide how the traditional knowledge can be integrated to the national healthcare delivery system.

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