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The confluence of traditional and modern medicine for better health

The Global AYUSH Investment and Innovation Summit aims to reveal possibilities for innovation, investment and growth opportunities in alternative and traditional medicine by generating a knowledge-sharing platform with information on research outcomes and stakeholder engagement efforts to establish a solution-oriented and robust method to utilise traditional Indian medicine. The event is taking place in Gujarat and witnessing significant emphasis on promoting alternate medicine within and outside the country, making traditional medicines and medical practices more accessible and popular. At the outset, the blending of these traditional and emergent modern medicines remained at the forefront.

The debate to bring the two mechanisms together for better health outcomes has been around in the policy domain for years. In several instances, it has been reiterated that given the surge in modern medical enhancement and the low awareness regarding the traditional medical systems, the latter has faced several challenges in gaining the attention it needed to grow. There further exists some distrust among the practitioners of the two systems. However, since the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a transition in the preference of medical systems in the country and elsewhere. The significance of preventive healthcare has gained much traction. The ongoing global health crisis and the repeated waves of infection have revealed the link between overall well-being and a balanced diet. This has urged individuals to keep wellness and a balanced lifestyle at the core of their health parameters. This has found resonance with the global search for alternative healthcare delivery systems among the beneficiaries. Stakeholders and practitioners have further recognised this at all levels of the global health infrastructure. In this context, the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) inaugurated the Global Centre for Traditional Medicine (GCTM) in India's Jamnagar a few days ago.

Experts at the summit have further underlined that the country's traditional medicine is a repository of hundreds of years of knowledge, and moving forward, technological interventions are pivotal to creating a global database repository of traditional medicine practices for sustainable future use. The establishment of GCTM, thus, remains a foundational step aimed at combining traditional techniques with contemporary science to realise its full potential. Evidence and learning, data and analytics, sustainability and equity, and technology and research will be the focus. It is a single focal point for the development and dissemination of affordable, holistic healthcare that will have a good impact on people all around the world. The WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, further highlighted the GCTM's core areas:

  • (i) research and innovation,
  • (ii) evidence and education,
  • (iii) data and
  • (iv) information, and
  • (v) advocacy.

In furtherance of this, the five identified key building blocks for the new center are:

  • (i) employing technology to construct a database of traditional knowledge systems;
  • (ii) GCTM can develop worldwide standards for inspection and testing of traditional medicines, increasing public confidence in them.
  • (iii) The GCTM should develop into a venue for global traditional medicine specialists to meet and share their knowledge.
  • (iv) The GCTM should raise funds to support traditional medicine research.
  • (v) The GCTM should create protocols for the holistic treatment of specific disorders, allowing patients support from traditional and modern medicine.

These efforts are focussed on attempts to foster coherence and cooperation in this area, which will benefit Indian states and other nations while following international testing standards and certify traditional medicine. This will inculcate faith and trust in the traditional procedures. Several Indian traditional medicines are gaining traction in other countries. However, regular trade in these products is limited due to a lack of international inspection and quality assurance standards. Member states must work together to integrate modern science with the codified system of traditional medicine. In the long run, antimicrobial resistance (AMR), the rising frequency of age-related ailments, non-communicable diseases, and other issues, according to evidence, can all be efficiently addressed with such focussed and collaborative methods.

It is essential to note that modern medicine interventions rely heavily on curative practices, while traditional medicines derive their inspiration from preventive mechanisms. Therefore, integrating the two can be instrumental in fully transforming India's healthcare delivery system and safeguarding the beneficiaries from further crises and shocks. It is envisaged that this confluence would be easier to attain in the post-pandemic era. Preventive health and wellness measures have begun to take centre stage, and measures to innovations in this regard would attract investments, particularly tech-led ayurvedic programs and businesses. A plethora of wellness at home programs have been initiated by private entrepreneurs in this sector. This has been instrumental in combating several issues, including insomnia and emotional and mental wellness challenges, that have become more prevalent in the recent years.

This has been co-authored by Bhakti Jain and Srijata Deb.