September 13, 2014, : Health Ministers and policy makers from the 11 Member States of the WHO South-East Asia Region today discussed ways to integrate traditional medicines from countries of the Region into their national health care systems. The Ministers are attending the Sixty-seventh Session of the WHO Regional Committee for South-East Asia. They reviewed the updated WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy 2014-2023 and discussed how to harness the traditional medicine framework to help achieve universal health coverage.

“Traditional medicine practitioners remain the primary health-care providers for millions of people in South-East Asia, especially in rural areas” 1, said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director for WHO South- East Asia Region. “Every country in the Region has a unique history of traditional medical practices, most of which are still actively practiced. To ensure that people are receiving quality traditional medicines in a safe and affordable way, it is important to hold these practices to rigorous standards to ensure that there is regulation of practice, product and practitioners. If appropriately integrated into the existing health systems, traditional medicines can play an important role in achieving Universal Health Coverage”, she added.

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.

In order to meet the increasing demand for and improve the quality, safety and efficacy of traditional medicine, WHO launched the Traditional Medicine Strategy: 2014-2023 with a three-pronged objective: to build a knowledge base and formulate national policies; to strengthen the safety, quality and effectiveness of traditional medicines through regulation; and to support Universal Health Coverage through appropriate integration of traditional medicine services and self-health care into national health-care systems.

In February 2013, the International Conference on traditional medicine was organized in New Delhi by the Government of India, supported by WHO. At the conference, the Delhi Declaration on Traditional Medicine for South-East Asia was adopted unanimously by all 11 Member States. All countries agreed to cooperate, collaborate and provide mutual support to each other in all fields of traditional medicine in accordance with national priorities, legislation and circumstances.

WHO will continue to support countries to create forums for information exchange and develop policy and regulations to ensure that high quality traditional medicines are available. However, resources must be substantially increased for this effective support to be a possibility. CCI Newswire


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