Although it may not seem to have a direct impact on us in the UK, the World Health Organization (WHO) develops policies which influence the direction of national policies in health institutions around the world.
In December 2013, the WHO published its ten year traditional medicine strategy (2014-2023). This report provides a really interesting perspective on the state of Traditional and Complementary Medicine (T&CM) around the world. The goals of the strategy are two-fold, namely, to support Member states in:
- Harnessing the potential contribution of Traditional Medicine (TM) to health, wellness and people-centred health care; and
- Promoting the safe and effective use of TM by regulating, researching and integrating TM products, practitioners and practice into health systems, where appropriate
The report recommends that Member states can help to raise the profile of T&CM by building up the knowledge base of T&CM, improving quality assurance through regulation and skill development and promoting the integration of T&CM services into healthcare systems.
The report also provides an interesting summary of a number of global professional organizations including the World Federation of Acupuncture-Moxibustion Societies (WFAS) and the World Federation of Chiropractic (WFC). According to a survey of acupuncture around the world, 93% of the 192 Member States of the United Nations have acupuncture practitioners and a third have acupuncture organizations. Increasing numbers of countries have partial or complete insurance cover for acupuncture and there are increasing number of acupuncture courses and degrees available. In the United States, 91 medical colleges now include some training in complementary and alternative medicine in conventional medicine courses.
Similarly with the chiropractic profession, there are increasing opportunities for training in around the world, research in the subject opportunities and the evidence base continues to expand, and the report notes that there have been “significant steps made to encourage collaboration and integration between chiropractic and medical professions”.
The report also outlines the global state of osteopathy and its international body the Osteopathic International Alliance. The number of osteopaths has doubled in the last 10 years to 120,000 spread across over 80 countries. In the US, osteopathic physicians now account for 6.5% of the total physician population. Training, regulation and funding opportunities have all increased.
The global picture for T&CM in general is positive. The main challenges highlighted by the report relate to the lack of regulation and regulatory frameworks, the need for more scientific research and evidence, and the need for more acceptance of T&CM by conventional medicine.
WHO (2013) WHO traditional medicine strategy: 2014-2023.