INDIA – The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Government of India signed a memorandum of understanding to establish the WHO Global Centre for Traditional Medicine.

This global knowledge center for traditional medicine, supported by a US$250 million investment from the Government of India, aims to harness the potential of traditional medicine from around the world through modern science and technology in order to improve people’s and the planet’s health.

The new WHO facility will be located in Jamnagar, Gujarat, India. While Jamnagar will serve as the hub, the new center is intended to engage and benefit people from all over the world.

It will focus on developing a solid evidence base for policies and standards on traditional medicine practices and products, as well as assisting countries in integrating it as appropriate into their health systems and regulating its quality and safety for maximum and long-term impact.

The new center will focus on four major strategic areas: evidence and learning, data and analytics, sustainability and equity, and innovation and technology, in order to maximize traditional medicine’s contribution to global health and sustainable development.

The new WHO global center for traditional medicine in Jamnagar, Gujarat, India, will be officially opened on April 21, 2022.

Traditional medicine is believed to be used by approximately 80% of the world’s population.

Nearly 90% of WHO member states use traditional medicine

To date, 170 of the 194 (87.6%) WHO Member States have reported using traditional medicine, and their governments have requested WHO assistance in developing a body of reliable evidence and data on traditional medicine practices and products.

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.

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.”

Traditional medicine refers to the totality of indigenous and different cultures’ knowledge, skills, and practices for maintaining health and preventing, diagnosing, and treating physical and mental illness over time.

Its scope includes both ancient and modern practices such as acupuncture, ayurvedic medicine, and herbal mixtures.

National health systems and strategies, however, have yet to fully integrate millions of traditional medicine workers, accredited courses, health facilities, and health expenditures.

Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India said: “It is heartening to learn about the signing of the Host Country Agreement for the establishment of Global Centre for Traditional Medicine (GCTM).”

The agreement between Ministry of Ayush and World Health Organization (WHO) to establish the WHO-GCTM at Jamnagar, Gujarat, is a commendable initiative.”

Through various initiatives, our government has been tireless in its endeavor to make preventive and curative healthcare, affordable and accessible to all. May the global center at Jamnagar help in providing the best healthcare solutions to the world.”

Traditional medicine gaining popularity in modern science

Traditional medicine is also gaining popularity in the world of modern science. Approximately 40% of approved pharmaceutical products in use today are derived from natural substances, highlighting the critical importance of biodiversity conservation and sustainability.

For example, the discovery of aspirin was based on traditional medicine formulations based on willow bark, the contraceptive pill was based on the roots of wild yam plants, and child cancer treatments have been based on the rosy periwinkle.

The Nobel Prize-winning artemisinin research for malaria control began with a review of ancient Chinese medicine texts.

Traditional medicine is being studied in new ways that are rapidly modernizing. Artificial intelligence is now being used to map evidence and trends in traditional medicine, as well as to screen natural products for pharmacokinetic properties.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) 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 used for mental health and well-being in stressful times.

Furthermore, mobile phone apps, online classes, and other technologies have modernized traditional medicine use.

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