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WHO RD Speaks on Role of Traditional Healers

Sep 2, 2008, 8:31 AM | Article By: By Pa Modou Faal

The Regional Director of the WHO recently spoke on the role of traditional health practitioners in primary health care. The full text of his speech is reprinted below.

Today we are celebrating the 6th African Traditional Medicine Day throughout Africa and reviewing progress on the Decade of African Traditional Medicine. The theme for this year is: "The Role of Traditional

Health Practitioners in Primary Health Care". This theme is in recognition of the 30th anniversary of the Alma-Ata Declaration of September 1978 which advocated health for all and called upon countries to include Traditional Medicine in their health systems in line with the Primary Health Care (PHC) approach.

WHO organised the International Conference on PHC and Health Systems in Africa in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso from 28th -to 30th April 2008, to celebrate 30 years of the Alma-Ata Declaration and create the momentum for revitalisation of PHC. The Conference reaffirmed the principles of the Declaration of Alma Ata, particularly in regard to health as a fundamental human right and the responsibility that governments have for the health of their people. WHO is also organising a congress on Traditional Medicine to be held in November 2008 in Beijing, the People's Republic of China. The purpose of the Congress is to review the role of Traditional Medicine and its providers in health care in line with the PHC approach.

Traditional Health Practitioners are an important human resource in the provision of health care services throughout sub-Saharan Africa. They have been increasingly involved in research and development, and encouraging results are being documented for traditional medicines used for some priority diseases such as malaria, sickle-cell disease and diabetes. Their collaboration with practitioners of conventional medicine indicates best practices such as health care delivery, including earlier referral of patients to medical facilities, increased knowledge on sexually-transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS, including prevention and community based directly-observed treatment short-course programmes in the control of tuberculosis. I would like to congratulate and call upon practitioners of the two systems of medicine who are already collaborating to intensify and co-ordinate their efforts and take action in a synergistic manner in strengthening the capacity of traditional health practitioners in PHC in order to build healthier African communities.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am happy to inform you that since the adoption, at the 15th session of the Regional Committee for Africa, of the Regional strategy on promoting the role of traditional medicine in health systems, over half of the countries in this region have formulated traditional medicine policies, developed traditional medicine regulations and established traditional medicine programmes in the ministries of health. The Traditional Health Practitioners Bill and Code of Ethics for the practice of traditional medicine should be part of national regulatory frameworks which are particularly important to protect the dignity, integrity and safety of patients.

I wish to call upon traditional health practitioners and their organisations to support implementation of the Ouagadougou Declaration on PHC by mobilising communities for health promotion and disease prevention. I also call upon them to collaborate with research institutes in order to assess, through rigorous scientific procedures, the quality, safety and efficacy of their products and to facilitate registration and patenting. I reiterate my appeal to governments, the private sector and partners to support scientific research into traditional medicines and practices to produce evidence on their effectiveness in combating disease. The support for documentation and protection of traditional medicine knowledge is also vital for use by future generations and for equitable sharing of resources and benefits.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

WHO shall continue to support countries to transform resolutions and declarations into realistic policies and plans for institutionalising traditional medicine in health systems as part of its commitment to health-for-all using the PHC approach, in collaboration with the African Union, and other committed partners and stakeholders. This collaboration is particularly important for the attainment of the expected outcomes of the plan of action of the Decade of African Traditional Medicine which will end in 2010.

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