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Don't shy away from traditional medicine - Quashigah
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Health News of Monday, 5 May 2008

Source: GNA

Don't shy away from traditional medicine - Quashigah

Accra, May 5, GNA - Major Courage Quashigah (rtd), Minister of Health, on Monday called on the health sector in the West Africa sub-region to make herbal medicine an integral part of their curative effort.

He said it was an open secret that 'when the chips are down, we secretly consult herbalists as if there is something shameful about it.' The Minister was opening the 5th International Discussion Forum for the Conventional Traditional African Medicine Practitioners and Western Orthodox Medicine Practitioners and Scientists in Accra which is brainstorming on the integration of the two medicinal practices -- orthodox and conventional.

He said the choice of Accra as the venue for the forum was strategic because two major events in conventional traditional African medicine which would take place in Ghana this year would have wide ranging ramifications for the development of the traditional African medicine sectors in the sub-region.

He mentioned the events as the introduction of various herbal formulae on the sub-regional Essential Medicine's list and the Ministry's attempt to utilise the skills of trained medical herbalists in Ghana's health service.

Major Quashigah said those two events required the co-operation of both the western orthodox medicine practitioners and the conventional traditional African medicine practitioners. "We have to congratulate ourselves for having developed the Harmonised Policies on Traditional Medicine Development and Regulation and the Advocacy plan which is being rolled out at this meeting," he said.

He said harmonisation of procedures and policies helped to standardise procedures and services to acceptable levels across the sub-region, thus promoting effective use of facilities and expertise wherever they might be available.

"There is no doubt that a lot of work has to be done to modernise and demystify the practices in traditional medicine to make them more reliable and credible by subjecting them to constant evaluation and regulation.

"We also have to demystify the related sciences and harness our collective interdisciplinary capacities and experiences, both technical and medical to make available documented evidence that encompasses the repertoire of requirements for safe and effective healthcare practices and products as well as improve the quality of product presentation and sufficiency of data to meet he criteria needed to support their usage worldwide," he added.

He said the reasons for lack of documented evidence, which in themselves could have served as advocacy, could not be blamed only on inadequacy of healthcare policies but also on lack of interest and inadequate research methodology for clinical evaluation of herbal medicine.

The Minister, therefore, called for collaboration between herbalists, research and medical experts in making the process work. Dr Luis Sambo, World Health Organisation Regional Director, said the direct and indirect morbidity, mortality, and socio-economic impacts of HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and malaria and non communicable diseases, which remained major public health and developmental threats for the African Region, continued to jeopardise progress towards the African Union's Abuja targets and UN Millennium Development Goals. "The health systems are constrained by inadequate human, financial and technological resources for enhancing proven health interventions; limited access to available health service and technologies. In addition, the limited resources are mostly used for curative care, thereby compromising other public health actions and how to ensure universal access to health care in the context of increasing poverty," he said.

Dr Sambo said the present situation called for a paradigm shift and their actions must be tailored to the country's need. Dr Kofi Busia, Professional Officer in charge of Traditional Medicine, West African Health Organisation (WAHO), said it was a fact that at any point in human history, ethno medical research, which often involved collaboration between traditional medicine practitioners and doctors or scientists, had always led to a medical breakthrough that saved the lives of millions of people.

"Quinine from the Cinchona tree contributed immensely to the fight against malaria; then there was the wonder drug aspirin from the willow bark and lately artemisinin from artemisia annua, all plant-based products.

"I am sure even the purists would argue that penicillin has traditional medicine origins. I can also say on authority that to date all the medicines used to treat cardiovascular disorders are of plant origin. I fervently believe that together, we can produce the tools for managing the HIV/AIDS pandemic," he added. 05 May 08

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