News / Health

    WHO Pursuing Update on Global Strategy for Traditional Medicine

    A patient suffering from facial paralysis undergoes acupuncture treatment at a traditional Chinese medical hospital in Jiaxing, Zhejiang province, July 11, 2012.A patient suffering from facial paralysis undergoes acupuncture treatment at a traditional Chinese medical hospital in Jiaxing, Zhejiang province, July 11, 2012.
    x
    A patient suffering from facial paralysis undergoes acupuncture treatment at a traditional Chinese medical hospital in Jiaxing, Zhejiang province, July 11, 2012.
    A patient suffering from facial paralysis undergoes acupuncture treatment at a traditional Chinese medical hospital in Jiaxing, Zhejiang province, July 11, 2012.
    Ivan Broadhead
    The origins of traditional medicine in Asia, Africa and the Americas can be traced back thousands of years.  A successful history of traditional disease prevention and treatment has been viewed with skepticism by contemporary scientists. But such views seem to be changing.
     
    The World Health Organization is meeting in Hong Kong as preparations continue to update a global strategy for traditional medicine first outlined in 2001. 
     
    One fifth of the world’s population is believed to rely on traditional healthcare.  According to WHO figures, 119 countries have developed regulatory frameworks for traditional medicine - or TM. 
     
    Dr. Zhang Qi is coordinator of the Geneva-based agency's traditional and complementary medicine unit. 
     
    “This shows we should recognize the existence and harness the potential of TM [traditional medicine] to contribute to healthcare.  We also [need to] ensure the safety, quality and effectiveness of TM for the public," he said. 
     
    While contemporary clinical science has tended to be skeptical about traditional medicine, the reality, says Professor Rudolf Bauer, is that more than one-third of so-called “modern” medicines are still derived from plants.  Another third are modeled on plant structures. 
     
    “The future goal could be some kind of integrated medicine using both traditional and Western medicine to select the best [treatments] for patients," he said. 
     
    The head of the University of Graz Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Bauer says modern medicine appears to be adopting successful methodologies from its older counterpart. 
     
    “TM is not usually one drug for millions of people, but individual mixtures of different herbs to best treat single patients.  This concept of personalized medicine is a very hot topic in Western medicine, especially in cancer treatment.  We realized we need more individualized therapies - and this has been the case in TM for hundreds, even thousands of years," he said. 
     
    Most experts agree the adoption of traditional medicine is going to rise.  Yale University Professor of Pharmacology Dr. Yung-chi Cheng is at the vanguard of modern medical research, inventing widely-used therapies for diseases including cancer, hepatitis, and HIV. 
     
    In 1999, Cheng began exploring the overlap between traditional and contemporary medicine.  Recently he and his colleagues licensed a compound - PHY906 - to improve treatment outcomes and help relieve the pain of cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.  
     
    “This formula consists of four herbs using exactly the same composition described 1,800 years ago in a classic Chinese medicine book.  I call this ‘poly-chemical medicine’ because it has multiple chemicals.  Today you and I use single-chemical medicines.  This paradigm will evolve to become the cornerstone of future medicine," he said. 
     
    The future looks healthy for traditional medicine, although investment will be required.
     
    In Hong Kong, where the WHO meeting is taking place, 30 percent of the population already uses traditional treatments. 
     
    While the Health Department was not prepared to speak to VOA, the new government of the semi-autonomous Chinese city has reiterated its commitment to make traditional medicine one of “six emerging pillar industries.” 
     
    As representative for 300 traditional medicine producers of the Chinese Manufacturers’ Association, Joseph Lau is not persuaded.  He notes the government does not even keep import and export data for the industry. 
     
    “I think the government is not doing enough to promote traditional medicine.  Over the years they have passed several laws to regulate production.  As a manufacturer, it makes our life a lot harder.  But this is a necessary step we have to go through," he said. 
     
    The China Daily newspaper observed in September that more investment is required for Hong Kong to emerge as a regional TM hub and challenge the Japanese and Korean manufacturers that control 90 percent of the market.  
     
    While regulatory frameworks are expanding and improving, concerns about TM quality persist.  This year, European authorities have issued several warnings on potential contamination of traditional medicines from Hong Kong and China. 
     
    Nonetheless, from a clinical perspective, the testing of new medicines is becoming increasingly rigorous and the credibility of traditional medicine increasingly robust, observes Dr. Cheng.  
     
    “I am a mainstream scientist.  I know what the concerns are.  Many people take a rejectionist approach to TM.  But nowadays evidence and hard science are coming along - many people are starting to consider the possibilities, and I think the mood is changing," he said. 
     
    As the modernization of ancient healthcare practices continues, the World Health Organization expects to implement its forthcoming 10-year global strategy for traditional medicine by 2014. 

    You May Like

    US Watching as North Korea Opens Biggest Political Meeting in Decades

    As Workers' Party Congress opens, Washington anticipating possibility of another missile launch or nuclear test as top officials gather

    Video Pop Icon Prince Quietly Helped Afghan Orphans for Years

    He sent thousands of dollars to help an aid group rebuild a training center for orphan boy and girl scouts in Kabul, but kept his involvement secret

    Britain’s Muslims See London Mayor Race as Victory

    Mere running of 45-year-old former government minister and son of Pakistani immigrants Sadiq Khan seen by many as turning point

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labori
    X
    May 05, 2016 6:44 PM
    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labor

    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Troops Recount Firefight Which Killed US Navy SEAL

    A U.S. Navy SEAL killed Tuesday, when Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, was part of a quick reaction force sent to extract other U.S. troops trapped by the surprise offensive. VOA's Kawa Omar spoke with Kurdish troops in the town of Telskuf -- the scene of what U.S. officials called a "dynamic firefight."
    Video

    Video British Lawmakers Warn EU Exit Talks Could Last A Decade

    Leaving the European Union would mean difficult negotiations that could take years to complete, according to a bipartisan group of British lawmakers. While the group did not recommend a vote either way, the lawmakers noted trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Henry Ridgwell reports on the mounting debate over whether Britain should stay or exit the EU as the June vote approaches.
    Video

    Video NASA Astronauts Train for Commercial Space Flights

    Since the last Shuttle flight in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russian rockets to launch fresh crews to the International Space Station. But that may change in the next few years. NASA and several private space companies are developing advanced capsules capable of taking humans into low orbit and beyond. As VOA's George Putic reports, astronauts are already training for commercial spacecraft in flight simulators.
    Video

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    The White House is expressing concern about rising political chaos in Iraq and the impact it could have on the fight against the Islamic State. The U.S. says Iraq needs a stable, central government to help push back the group. But some say Baghdad may not have a unified government any time soon. VOA's White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas reports.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora