First Global Summit on Traditional Medicine: Exploring Evidence and Opportunities for Health

The World Health Organization (WHO) is set to host the inaugural Traditional Medicine Global Summit on August 17 and 18, 2023, in Gandhinagar, Gujarat, India. With the support of the Government of India, this groundbreaking event will delve into the role of traditional, complementary, and integrative medicine in tackling urgent health challenges and propelling advancements in global health and sustainable development.

Expected to participate are prominent figures, including WHO’s Director-General, Regional Directors, G20 health ministers, and distinguished invitees from countries spanning WHO’s six regions. The summit will also bring together researchers, traditional medicine practitioners, healthcare professionals, and members of civil society organizations.

Exploring the Path to Holistic Health

The Traditional Medicine Global Summit will focus on strategies to amplify scientific progress and harness the potential of evidence-based knowledge in employing traditional medicine to enhance global health and well-being. Renowned experts will guide discussions on a range of topics, including research methodologies, policies, and regulations, innovation in digital health, biodiversity preservation, equity, and Indigenous knowledge.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s Director-General, highlighted the significance of integrating traditional medicine into mainstream healthcare. He emphasized that by doing so based on sound scientific evidence, traditional medicine can contribute to universal health coverage and aid in reaching global health targets. This approach aligns with patient-centered and holistic approaches to health and well-being.

Pioneering Research and Development

Traditional medicine has already played a role in significant medical advancements, and its potential remains vast. Ethnopharmacology and reverse pharmacology are research methods that could unearth new, safe, and clinically effective treatments. Combining new technologies such as genomics, advanced diagnostics, and artificial intelligence could open new avenues of knowledge in traditional medicine.

As the utilization of traditional medicine expands worldwide, safety, efficacy, and quality control remain essential considerations. To recommend traditional medicines in WHO guidelines, robust scientific processes are required. While traditional practices have deep historical roots, rigorous scientific methodologies must be applied to ensure their safety and effectiveness.

Towards a Stronger Evidence Base

The summit aims to deepen the understanding of traditional medicine by exploring research and evaluation methodologies. It will foster a global research agenda, assess traditional medicine’s 25-year research history, and present findings from systematic reviews and evidence maps. A stronger evidence base will allow countries to develop tailored mechanisms and policies for regulating and monitoring traditional medicine practices, products, and practitioners, taking into account national contexts and needs.

Biodiversity and Indigenous Knowledge

Biodiversity and Indigenous knowledge form the foundation of traditional medicine and contribute to overall health and well-being, particularly among Indigenous Peoples. The summit will address the relationship between biodiversity, traditional knowledge, and human health. Discussions will center on the preservation of biodiversity, innovative solutions, access to traditional knowledge, and equitable benefit-sharing. The implications of global economic activities related to traditional medicine, intellectual property regulations, and the promotion of indigenous and ancestral medicine through intercultural dialogues will also be explored.

A Gateway to a Healthier Future

The 2023 WHO Traditional Medicine Global Summit marks a significant milestone in recognizing the value of traditional, complementary, and integrative medicine in healthcare systems worldwide. By embracing scientific rigor and promoting evidence-based practices, we can unlock the potential of traditional medicine to foster a healthier future for all. This summit is the first in a series of global events dedicated to traditional medicine, emphasizing the importance of partnership, innovation, and respect for local traditions and resources.

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