WHO to set up a center for study of traditional medicine in Gujarat

iNDICA News Bureau-


The World Health Organization (WHO) and the government of India signed an agreement Friday to establish a global center for traditional medicine in the western Indian state of Gujarat.

The onsite launch of the center at Jamnagar in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat will take place April 21, a statement from the world body said. While Jamnagar will serve as the hub for the center, it is designed to engage with and benefit all regions of the world.

The center is supported by an investment of US$ 250 million from the Indian government and aims to harness the potential of traditional systems of medicine from across the world through modern science and technology to improve people’s health.

“For many millions of people around the world, traditional medicine is the first port of call to treat many diseases,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general. Nearly 80 percent of the world’s population is estimated to use some form of traditional medicine.

Till date, 170 of the 194 WHO member states have reported the use of traditional medicine in their societies. But national health systems and strategies do not fully integrate the millions of traditional medicine workers, accredited courses, health facilities and expenditures.

Many of the countries where the use of traditional systems of medicine are in vogue had sought WHO’s assistance in creating a body of reliable evidence and data on these practices and products.

“Ensuring all people have access to safe and effective treatment is an essential part of WHO’s mission, and this new center will help to harness the power of science to strengthen the evidence base for traditional medicine. I’m grateful to the government of India for its support, and we look forward to making it a success,” the WHO chief added.

“It is heartening to learn about the signing of the host country agreement for the establishment of the global center for traditional medicine,” India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said. “The agreement between the ministry of Ayush and the WHO is a commendable initiative.”

The term ‘traditional medicine’ describes the sum total of the knowledge, skills and practices different cultures have used over time to maintain health and prevent, diagnose and treat physical and mental illnesses. It encompasses ancient practices such as acupuncture, ayurvedic medicine and herbal mixtures as well as modern formulations, the WHO statement said.

Traditional medicine is also becoming more prominent in the world of modern science. Some 40 percent of approved pharmaceutical products in use today are derived from natural substances, highlighting the importance of conserving biodiversity and sustainability.

For example, the discovery of aspirin drew on traditional medicine formulations using the bark of the willow tree, the contraceptive pill was developed from the roots of wild yam plants, and child cancer treatments have been based on the rosy periwinkle. Nobel Prize-winning research on artemisinin for malaria control started with a review of ancient Chinese medicine texts.

There has been rapid modernization of the ways traditional medicine is studied. Artificial intelligence is now used to map evidence and trends in traditional medicine and screen natural products for pharmacokinetic properties. Functional magnetic resonance imaging is used to study brain activity and the relaxation response that is part of some traditional medicine therapies such as meditation and yoga, which are increasingly drawn on for mental health and wellbeing.

The new center focuses on four strategic areas: evidence and learning, data and analytics, sustainability and equity, and innovation and technology to optimize the contribution of traditional medicine to global health and sustainable development.