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"Beijing Declaration" from WHO Congress on Traditional Medicine Pushes Use in Primary Care PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Weeks   

"Beijing Declaration" from WHO Congress on Traditional Medicine Promotes Use in Primary Care

Summary:  The first Congress on Traditional Medicine of the World Health Organization (WHO) was convened in Beijing, China November 7-9, 2008. Participating were 1100 experts from 70 countries. Included was a significant contingent of chiropractors organized by the World Federation of Chiropractic. The Congress promulgated the "Beijing Declaration," included here, which also calls on countries to integrate conventional and traditional medicine. A particular focus, in the Declaration and comments from the WHO. director general, is to support the broader WHO campaign to revitalize primary care. Will the IOM's National Summit on Integrative Medicine align with this call?
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WHO: First Congress on Traditional Medicine
The first World Health Organization Congress (WHO) on Traditional Medicine has held in Beijing China November 7-9, 2008. The Congress led to the promulgation of the "Beijing Declaration," copied in full below.

Some 1100 experts from 70 countries participated in the Congress, according to a congratulatory notice from the United Nations. The Declaration was deemed "landmark" by
Carissa Etienne, MD WHO Assistant Director-General for Health Systems and Services. The UN notice struck this tone:
"Both modern and traditional medicine have their advantages and weakness for health care," said Dr Zhang Xiaorui, one of the organizers of the Congress and Coordinator of Traditional Medicines at WHO's Department of Essential Medicines and Pharmaceutical Policies. "If national health care systems can include the advantages of both systems, it would benefit both patients and consumers." 
An address to the Congress by WHO director general Margaret Chan, MD took up this theme. Chan underscored problems in the quality of natural products. She noted significant issues that can arise if individuals use herbal remedies rather than drug therapies for when drugs are available. Then Chan pointed to a significant role for traditional medicine in support of the WHO's call for renewed interest, globally, in primary health care:
"Primary health care is a people-centred, holistic approach to health that makes prevention as important as cure. As part of this preventive approach, it tackles the root causes of ill health, also in non-health sectors, thus offering an upstream attack on threats to health.

"Decades of experience tell us that primary health care produces better health outcomes, at lower costs, and with higher user satisfaction ...

"I believe that the strong calls we are hearing for a renewal of primary health care create an ideal opportunity to revisit the place of traditional medicine, to take a positive look at its many contributions to health care that is equitable, accessible, affordable, and people-centred ...The two systems of traditional and Western medicine need not clash. Within the context of primary health care, they can blend together in a beneficial harmony, using the best features of each system, and compensating for certain weaknesses in each."
Chiropractors in strong showing

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Stathis Papadopoulos, DC: presenting on behalf of the WFC
The chiropractic profession was among those strongly represented at the meeting. Over 120 delegates from 26 countries participated according to a release from the World Federation of Chiropractic. WFC president
Stathis Papadopoulos, DC noted in his presentation that the meeting marked the 30th anniversary of the Alma Ata Declaration which called for "the inclusion of traditional medicine in primary healthcare systems." He echoed both Chan and the Beijing Declaration in underscoring the importance of standards in credentialing practitioners.

Notably, the WFC statement also shared that Molly Robinson, DC, a graduate of Northwestern Health Sciences University, will begin work in Geneva in January 2009 as a technical officer at the WHO. Papadopoulos. According to the statement, Robinson will have six chiropractic student interns working with her, each for a period of 3 months, under arrangements made possible because of the work of the WFC and the World Congress of Chiropractic Students, and funding support from Integrator sponsor NCMIC, the NBCE, former Integrator sponsor Standard Process and Foot Levelers.

Comment: The statements from the WHO have always been a refreshing acknowledgment of hte value of natural health care, even if they are not backed by significant budgets and don't seem to get much traction from the likes of the Gates Foundation. Yet international travelers who use and are interested in traditional medicines - in contra-distinction to "evidence-based integrative therapies" - will know the pleasure of moving among peoples for whom these therapies and practices are not treated as guilty until proven innocent. It will be interesting to see what kind of recommendations will come out of the United States' version of such a "Congress" in February 25-27, 2009, when the Institute of Medicine and the Bravewell Collaborative hold the National Summit on Integrative Medicine and the Health of the Public. Will non-conventional practitioners be put forward as part of a solution for this nation's gaping crisis in primary care?

Thanks to Joe Brimhall, DC, president of Western States Chiropractic College, for bringing the Beijing Declaration to my attention.
 

_______________________

Beijing Declaration

Adopted by the WHO Congress on Traditional Medicine, Beijing, China
8 November 2008

Participants at the World Health Organization Congress on Traditional Medicine, meeting in Beijing this eighth day of November in the year two thousand and eight;

Recalling the International Conference on Primary Health Care at Alma Ata thirty years ago and noting that people have the right and duty to participate individually and collectively in the planning and implementation of their health care, which may include access to traditional medicine;

Recalling World Health Assembly resolutions promoting traditional medicine, including WHA56.31 on Traditional Medicine of May 2003;

Noting that the term "traditional medicine" covers a wide variety of therapies and practices which may vary greatly from country to country and from region to region, and that traditional medicine may also be referred to as alternative or complementary medicine;

Recognizing traditional medicine as one of the resources of primary health care services to increase availability and affordability and to contribute to improve health outcomes including those mentioned in the Millennium Development Goals;

Recognizing that Member States have different domestic legislation, approaches, regulatory responsibilities and delivery models;

Noting that progress in the field of traditional medicine has been obtained in a number of Member States through implementation of the WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy 2002-2005;

Expressing the need for action and cooperation by the international community, governments, and health professionals and workers, to ensure proper use of traditional medicine as an important component contributing to the health of all people, in accordance with national capacity, priorities and relevant legislation;

In accordance with national capacities, priorities, relevant legislation and circumstances, hereby make the following Declaration:

I.     The knowledge of traditional medicine, treatments and practices should be respected, preserved, promoted and communicated widely and appropriately based on the circumstances in each country.

II.    Governments have a responsibility for the health of their people and should formulate national policies, regulations and standards, as part of comprehensive national health systems to ensure appropriate, safe and effective use of traditional medicine.

III.   Recognizing the progress of many governments to date in integrating traditional medicine into their national health systems, we call on those who have not yet done so to take action.

IV.  Traditional medicine should be further developed based on research and innovation in line with the "Global strategy and plan of action on public health, innovation and intellectual property" adopted at the Sixty-first World Health Assembly in resolution WHA61.21 in 2008. Governments, international organizations and other stakeholders should collaborate in implementing the global strategy and plan of action.

V.   Governments should establish systems for the qualification, accreditation or licensing of traditional medicine practitioners.  Traditional medicine practitioners should upgrade their knowledge and skills based on national requirements.

VI. The communication between conventional and traditional medicine providers should be strengthened and appropriate training programmes be established for health professionals, medical students and relevant researchers.  

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