By Asmau Ahmad
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has announced plans to convene a Traditional Medicine Global Summit to explore the role of traditional medicine in addressing pressing health challenges to drive progress in global health and sustainable development.
The WHO in a statement on its website stated that the summit, which is scheduled to hold on August 17 and 18, 2023, in Gandhinagar, Gujarat, India.
The global health body in the statement explained that the summit will explore ways to scale up scientific advances and realize the potential of evidence-based knowledge in the use of traditional medicine for people’s health and well-being around the world.
It revealed that participants will include the WHO Director-General and Regional Directors, G20 health ministers, and high-level invitees from countries across WHO’s six regions.
Scientists, practitioners of traditional medicine, health workers, and members of civil society organisations are also expected to take part in the summit.
According to the statement, the scientists and other experts will lead technical discussions on research, evidence, learning, policy, data, regulation, innovation and digital health, biodiversity, equity, and Indigenous knowledge.
While acknowledging the role played by traditional medicine in ground-breaking medical advancements, WHO explained that the summit’s focus will be on traditional medicine research and evaluation, including methodologies for creating a global research agenda and priorities, as well as challenges and opportunities based on 25 years of traditional medicine research.
The global health organisation stressed that a stronger evidence base would enable countries to develop appropriate mechanisms and policy guidance for regulating, ensuring quality control, and monitoring traditional medicine practices according to national contexts and needs.
The statement read, “At the Summit, WHO will present emerging findings from the third global survey on traditional medicine, which, for the first time, includes questions on the financing of traditional and complementary medicine, the health of Indigenous Peoples, quality assurance, traditional medicine knowledge, biodiversity, trade, integration, patient safety, and more.
“The complete survey, which will be released later in the year, first on an interactive online dashboard and then as a report, will inform the development of WHO’s updated traditional medicine strategy 2025-2034 as requested by the World Health Assembly in May 2023.
“Standardization of traditional medicine condition documentation and coding in routine health information systems is a prerequisite for effective management and regulation of traditional medicine in healthcare systems. This includes consideration of forms, incidence rates, and outcomes associated with traditional medicine healthcare.
“The Summit will be an opportunity to showcase countries’ experiences, explore regional trends and discuss best practices, including in the implementation of the traditional medicine chapter in the latest International Classification of Diseases, the ICD-11.
“Participants in the Summit will examine a global overview of policy, legal and regulatory landscapes; formal structures and policies to collect data and establish systems for information management; an assessment of educational and training programmes for the development of traditional medicine workforce; and experiences and best practices on training, accreditation, and regulation of traditional medicine practitioners, which can substantially advance patient safety and minimize patient harm in the provision of traditional medicine services.”
On his part, the WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noted that traditional medicine can play an important and catalytic role in achieving the goal of universal health coverage.
“Traditional medicine can play an important and catalytic role in achieving the goal of universal health coverage and meeting global health-related targets that were off-track even before the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Bringing traditional medicine into the mainstream of health care appropriately, effectively, and above all, safely based on the latest scientific evidence can help bridge access gaps for millions of people around the world.
“It would be an important step toward people-centred and holistic approaches to health and well-being,” Ghebreyesus added.
Similarly, the WHO Director of Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases, Dr John Reeder, argued that advancing science on traditional medicine should be held to the same rigorous standards as other fields of medicine.
He noted, “This may require new thinking on the methodologies to address these more holistic, contextual approaches and provide evidence that is sufficiently conclusive and robust to lead to policy recommendations.”