Below is an introduction to the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Report on Traditional and Complementary Medicine.
Traditional and complementary medicine (T&CM) is an important and often underestimated health resource with many applications, especially in the prevention and management of lifestyle-related chronic diseases, and in meeting the health needs of ageing populations. Many countries are seeking to expand coverage of essential health services at a time when consumer expectations for care are rising, costs are soaring, and most budgets are either stagnant or being reduced. Given the unique health challenges of the 21st century, interest in T&CM is undergoing a revival.
Monitoring health trends is a core function of the World Health Organization (WHO) and is key to supporting countries in generating evidence-based policies and strategic plans. This report reviews global progress in T&CM over the past two decades and is based on contributions from 179 WHO Member States. It clearly shows that more and more countries are recognizing the role of T&CM in their national health systems. For instance, by 2018, 98 Member States had developed national policies on T&CM, 109 had launched national laws or regulations on T&CM, and 124 had implemented regulations on herbal medicines.
Countries aiming to integrate the best of T&CM and conventional medicine would do well to look not only at the many differences between the two systems, but also at areas where both converge to help tackle the unique health challenges of the 21st century. In an ideal world, traditional medicine would be an option offered by a well-functioning, people-centred health system that balances curative services with preventive care.
WHO is halfway through implementing the WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy 2014–2023. Our current focus is to develop norms, standards and technical documents based on reliable information and data, to support Member States in providing safe, qualified and effective T&CM services and their appropriate integration into health systems for achieving universal health coverage and the Sustainable Development Goals. I am very pleased to introduce the WHO global report on traditional and complementary medicine 2019. I believe that this report provides valuable information for policy-makers, health professionals and the public for capitalizing on the potential contribution of T&CM to health and well-being.