India signs agreement to set up WHO Global Centre for Traditional Medicine in Gujarat

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the government of India signed an agreement Friday to establish a WHO Global Centre for Traditional Medicine at Jamnagar, Gujarat. The centre, supported by a USD 250 million investment from the Indian government, aims to build a solid evidence base for policies and standards on traditional medical practices and products.

The new centre will focus on four main strategic areas: evidence and learning, data and analytics, sustainability and equity and innovation and technology. It will also help countries integrate it into their health systems and regulate its quality and safety.

“It is heartening to learn about the signing of the Host Country Agreement for the establishment of the Global Centre for Traditional Medicine. The agreement…to establish the WHO-GCTM at Jamnagar, Gujarat, is a commendable initiative. Through various initiatives, our government has been tireless in its endeavour to make preventive and curative healthcare, affordable and accessible to all. May the global centre at Jamnagar help in providing the best healthcare solutions to the world,” said Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Around 80% of the world’s population is estimated to use traditional medicine; 170 of the 194 WHO member states have reported its use and their governments have asked for WHO’s support in creating a body of reliable evidence and data on traditional medicine practices and products.

National health systems and strategies do not yet fully integrate the millions of traditional medicine workers, accredited courses, health facilities, and health expenditures.

Nearly 40% of approved pharmaceutical products in use today derive from natural substances. For example, the discovery of aspirin drew on traditional medicine formulations using the bark of the willow tree, the contraceptive pill was developed from the roots of wild yam plants and child cancer treatments have been based on the rosy periwinkle. Nobel-prize winning research on artemisinin for malaria control started with a review of ancient Chinese medicine texts.

“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 centre 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,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

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