Integrating Indigenous Systems of Medicines in the Healthcare System in India: Need and Way Forward
The existence of medical systems in India can be said to date from the time of the earliest civilization in the subcontinent. The systems evolved with time, as foreign invaders, travellers, missionaries came and they brought with them practices being followed in their countries. These got assimilated into the culture of the local inhabitants. These medical systems include Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha, Yoga, Naturopathy and Sowa Rigpa. These have been brought together under the Ministry of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy). Besides these, there are other folk medicines used in India.
These systems have provided healthcare to a large part of the population. Despite their existence for such a long time, these systems are not as prominent as the modern system (allopathic) in terms of presence in the healthcare system, the extent of use by the people, contribution to research, drug discovery and economic growth of the country.
There are many reasons for this situation. The most important among these being historical failures on the part of the ruling colonial government in pre independence India, that promoted the modern system of medicine while deriding the existing traditional systems of medicines. This practice continued for many years till independence when the Indian Government realized the mistake that had been done and started taking measures for rectification.
Many steps have been taken in this direction, which include establishing of a separate ministry for the same (AYUSH), establishment of independent regulatory councils for each system, government funded research centers, pharmacopoeias, formularies, making of the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library, inclusion of AYUSH systems under National Rural Health Mission and so on. Despite this progress, there remains a gap between the mainstream healthcare system and the AYUSH services that are being established in the country.
Some issues need to be addressed for the AYUSH systems to get established as independent systems of medicines in parallel to the allopathic system, offering true choices to the patients. For this to happen a paradigm shift in the way the systems are being developed is required.
No dilution of the science and philosophy of one system with the other must be done as is happening at the moment. Each system must be allowed to grow and develop so that the advantages and disadvantages of each can be appreciated by all patients and doctors alike. Integration of the best practices of each system will follow automatically as it is realized that there are real advantages of using all systems of medicines for different purposes and ailments. Integrating the indigenous systems of medicines with allopathy in the healthcare system will offer people choices for improving their health, in the true sense.
KeywordsAYUSH Allopathy India Utilization Public health system Integration
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