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Special Content

Issue no 6, 07-13 May 2022

Ayush: India's Green Gold

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Government of India on March 25, 2022 signed an agreement to establish the WHO Global Centre for Traditional Medicine (GCTM). This global knowledge centre for traditional medicine, supported by an investment of USD 250 million from the Government of India, aims to harness the potential of traditional medicine from across the world through modern science and technology to improve the health of people and the planet.

The Prime Minister Shri. Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone of the new centre in Jamnagar, Gujarat on April 19, 2022. This is the first and only global outposted Centre (office) for Traditional Medicine across the globe. This Centre will contribute towards making a healthier planet and leveraging our rich traditional practices for global good. The centre's five main areas will be research and leadership, evidence and learning, data and analytics, sustainability and equity and innovation and technology.

A Joint Task Force (JTF) has been constituted for coordination, execution and monitoring of activities for the establishment of this Centre. The JTF comprises representatives from the Government of India, Permanent Mission of India, Geneva and the World Health Organization. Under the ambit of this, an interim office is being established at the ITRA, Jamnagar, Gujarat to execute the identified technical activities and planning of fully functional WHO GCTM.

WHO Global Centre for Traditional Medicine in India at Jamnagar, Gujarat, will have its interim office at the Institute of Training and Research in Ayurveda (ITRA) in Gujarat. The interim office is intended to deliver broadly on generation of evidence and innovation, artificial intelligence based solutions for traditional medicine, systematic reviews in collaboration with Cochrane, Global survey on traditional medicine data across WHO GPW 13 (Thirteenth General Programme of Work 2019-2023) and sustainable development goals, traditional medicine sociocultural and biodiversity heritage with a forward looking approach to sustainable development and management and cross-cutting functions, business operations and administrative processes for the establishment of main office of WHO GCTM.

The WHO GCTM would provide leadership on all global health matters related to traditional medicine as well as extend support to member countries in shaping various policies related to traditional medicine research, practices and public health.

What was the need for GCTM?

  1. To position AYUSH systems across the globe
  2. To provide leadership on global health matters pertaining to traditional medicine.
  3. To ensure quality, safety and efficacy, accessibility and rational use of traditional medicine.
  4. To develop norms, standards, and guidelines in relevant technical areas, tools and methodologies, for collecting data undertaking analytics, and assess impact. Envisage WHO TM Informatics centre creating a collaborative of existing TM Data banks, virtual libraries, and academic and research institutes.
  5. To develop specific capacity building and training programmes in the areas of relevance to the objectives and conduct training programmes in campus, residential, or web-based, and through partnerships with the WHO Academy and other strategic partners.

Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director-General, WHO, said that India's philosophy of 'Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam' is the driving force behind the launch of WHO GCTM. Dr Ghebreyesus said, "For many millions of people around the world, traditional medicine is the first port of call to treat many diseases. 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."

Dr Ghebreyesus said that the establishment of the Centre is historic and will prove to be a game changer. The Centre is designed to be an engine of innovation to drive the agenda of evidence, data and sustainability and optimization of use of traditional medicine. The DG commended the Prime Minister and the Indian Government for harnessing the power of innovation in public health. He appreciated the use of data and integrated information sharing systems in Indian hospitals. He praised the AYUSH Ministry for fostering the spirit of collection of data for research in traditional medicine.

Noting the rising global demand and investment in the Ayush products the DG said that the whole world is coming to India and India is going to the whole world. He emphasized long term investment in innovation ecosystem in health in general and traditional medicines in particular; developing traditional medicines by innovators, industry and government in environmentally sustainable and equitable manner and protecting the interest of the communities that developed these traditions which should also benefit when these medicines are brought to the market, including by sharing the fruits of intellectual property.

The GCTM will focus on developing a strong evidence base for traditional medicine policies and standards, as well as assisting countries in integrating traditional medicine practices and products into national health systems and regulating their quality and safety for maximum and longterm impact.

What is Traditional Medicine?

The WHO describes the term "Traditional Medicine" as "the total sum of the knowledge, skills and practices, indigenous and different cultures have used over time to maintain health and prevent, diagnose and treat physical and mental illness." Its reach encompasses ancient practices such as acupuncture, ayurvedic medicine and herbal mixtures as well as modern medicines.

According to the WHO, 170 of its 194 Member States have reported the use of traditional medicine to date. In addition, their governments have asked for WHO's support in creating a body of reliable evidence and data on traditional medicine practices and products.

Traditional medicine is a key pillar of health care delivery systems and plays a crucial role in maintaining good health and well-being. Safe and effective traditional medicine will play a significant role in ensuring all people have access to quality essential health care services and safe, effective and affordable essential medicines as the world approaches the tenyear milestone for Sustainable Development Goals in 2030. The WHO-GCTM will identify various challenges faced by the countries in regulating, integrating and further positioning Traditional Medicine (TM) in respective countries.

Describing the strides made by the Ayush sector the Prime Minister said "We are already witnessing unprecedented growth in the production of AYUSH medicines, supplements and cosmetics. In 2014, where the AYUSH sector was less than $3 billion, today it has increased to more than $18 billion."

Steps being taken to promote TM

The Government is implementing Centrally Sponsored Scheme of National AYUSH Mission (NAM) in the country through State and UT Governments for promotion and development of AYUSH systems.

Under the concept of AYUSH Gram, AYUSH based lifestyles are promoted through behavioural change communication, training of village health workers towards identification and use of local medicinal herbs and provision of AYUSH health services.

Under Central Sector Scheme for promotion of International Cooperation, the Ministry of AYUSH undertakes various steps to promote and publicize AYUSH systems of medicine including Ayurveda across the globe. The Ministry deputes AYUSH experts to foreign countries to participate in international meetings, conferences, training programmes, seminars and on special assignment of the Government of India for promotion and propagation of AYUSH Systems. Incentives are provided to AYUSH drug manufacturers, entrepreneurs, AYUSH institutions, etc. for (i) participating in international exhibitions, conferences, workshops, trade fairs, etc. for generating awareness amongst the public about the AYUSH systems of medicine and; (ii) registration of AYUSH products with regulatory authorities of the foreign countries.

33 AYUSH Information Cells have been set up in 31 countries to disseminate authentic information about AYUSH systems. The Ministry of AYUSH has deputed two experts (Ayurveda and Siddha) to the Ministry of Health, Malaysia under ITEC Programme of Ministry of External Affairs for providing their services at Port Dickson Hospital, and Cheras Rehabilitation Hospital. The Ministry of AYUSH has taken several major steps to encourage startup culture in the field of Traditional Medicines. The government is also working on modernization and expansion of AYUSH e-market place.

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Global AYUSH Investment & Innovation Summit

The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi on April 20, 2022, inaugurated the Global AYUSH Investment & Innovation Summit at Mahatma Mandir in Gandhinagar, Gujarat. The Summit commenced a day after the Prime Minister inaugurated the WHO-Global Centre for Traditional Medicine in Jamnagar.

The three-day summit was aimed at uncovering investment potential, and giving a fillip to innovation, research & development, start-up ecosystem, and the wellness industry. It helped bring together industry leaders, academicians and scholars together and act as a platform for future collaborations. The GAIIS 2022 was a distinctive effort by the Government of India to attract the world's attention to India's ancient wisdom and traditional knowledge, and capitalize on it to pave the way for a sustainable future. The Summit was organised in line with Sustainable Development Goal Number 3 of promoting "Good Health and Well-being".

The Prime Minister announced the launch of Ayush Export Promotion Council and four Ayush ICT initiatives which includes Ayush Information Hub, AyuSoft, Ayush Next and Ayush GIS. He also released a comic book named 'Professor Ayushman', which describes how Ayush systems and products helped in fighting not only COVID-19 but other diseases too.

During the summit, more than 70 MoUs were signed between countries, prestigious research institutes, the farmers groups and industry. The first GAIIS saw participation from more than 30 FMCG companies. This is expected to create around 5.5 lakhs jobs which will positively impact the lives of more than 76 lakh people. Apart from this, the Government will develop a network of AYUSH parks to encourage the promotion, research and manufacturing of AYUSH products across the country.

The summit was instrumental in developing an enabling framework to attract investments, providing strategic support to policies. The investors and the entrepreneurs of the whole world have realized the comparative advantages which Ayush is offering, and its strengths in the form of huge youth power, skilled labour along with the robustness, reliability of Ayush in healthcare & wellness services.

Compiled by: Annesha Banerjee & Anuja Bhardwajan

Source: PIB/WHO/gaiis.in