The paper, which has taken two years to draft, sets out the WHO’s policies between 2014 and 2023. It is intended to support countries to harness the potential contribution that complementary medicines can make to health, wellness and people-centred health care, and to the promotion of safe and effective use of complementary medicines through their integration into health systems.
“Across the world, traditional medicine is either the mainstay of healthcare delivery or serves as a complement to it,” wrote Margaret Chen, the WHO’s director-general, in her forward to the paper.
She said that much has changed since the WHO’s previous global strategy, which was published in 2002 and is replaced by the current paper.
“More countries have gradually come to accept the contribution that T&CM can make to the health and wellbeing of individuals and to the comprehensiveness of their healthcare systems.
“Governments and consumers are interested in more than herbal medicines, and are now beginning to consider aspects of T&CM practices and practitioners and whether they should be integrated into health service delivery. In order to meet this new demand… WHO recently updated the objectives of the Traditional Medicine Programme.”
Government should notice
The Complementary Healthcare Council of Australia’s CEO, Carl Gibson, was in particular heartened to find that the new strategy stressed the importance of traditional medicines across all healthcare, and called on Australian ministers to take up its policies.
“Complementary medicines are an often underestimated part of the healthcare system that contribute strongly to wellbeing and to ensuring that all people have access to care, and the World Heath Organisation Strategy emphasises this,” said Gibson.
“The use of complementary medicines has a long history of use in health maintenance and in disease prevention and treatment, particular for chronic disease. In Australia, our vibrant complementary medicines industry has much to offer in terms of contribution to the preventative health agenda.
“I urge the Australian government to see the WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy 2014-2023 as the impetus for fostering the appropriate proactive policies and for recognising complementary medicines as a vital part of a comprehensive Australian health care system.”