Speech of Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, at the Technical Consultation on the Medium-term agenda on Traditional Medicine for Universal Health Coverage in the Western Pacific Region
Good morning everyone. I am very pleased be able to welcome colleagues and friends to our Regional Office for this important consultation.
In many countries in our Region, traditional medicine is where people often go first when they need health care. In fact in many places, especially in rural and remote areas, traditional medicine is the only health care service available close to where people live.
As well as healing the sick, traditional medicine can also play an important role in keeping people well. As the famous Alma Ata declaration of 1978 recognised, traditional medicine has a crucial role to play in primary health care.
As primary health care is the foundation for strengthening health services to achieve Universal Health Coverage, this means that traditional medicine has a critical role to play in delivering UHC.
Therefore, ensuring safety and quality of traditional medicine is a major priority for WHO’s work in this Region, as part of the UHC agenda.
Our Regional Committee adopted the Regional Strategy for Traditional Medicine in 2011. To quickly refresh your memory, the Strategy set out five overarching objectives:
First, to include traditional medicine in the national health system;
Second, to promote safe and effective use of traditional medicine;
Third, to increase access to safe and effective traditional medicine;
Fourth, to promote protection and sustainable use of traditional medicine resources;
and fifth, to strengthen cooperation in generating and sharing traditional medicine knowledge and skills.
These objectives are very much in line with WHO’s global Traditional Medicine Strategy for 2014-2023, as well as other important regional strategies and policies – including, for instance, the action agenda on regulatory strengthening and convergence adopted by the RC just last year.
I am pleased to say that we have been tracking very well on delivering the objectives set out in the Regional Strategy: Member States have been taking great strides forward in a range of areas, including strengthening regulatory systems for traditional medicine products and practitioners, and improving information systems for evidence-informed policy decisions.
Several countries have been developing models for integrating traditional medicine into broader service delivery, and many Member States in the Region have also developed national policies and strategies on traditional medicine or included this issue in relevant national health policies.
However, we know there are also still significant challenges.
On regulation, for instance, some countries still lack not only the appropriate regulatory standards for traditional medicine products and practitioners, but also the capacity to develop and implement them.
Other challenges include lack of good information for consumers about use of traditional medicine in some countries, and consumers being ill-informed as a result. And we know that integrating traditional medicine into broader service delivery models is not always an easy task.
Of course, you will discuss all of these issues in more detail this week. Since our Regional Strategy will expire in 2020, this is the perfect time to be taking stock, discussing shared challenges, and outlining next steps.
For WHO’s part, here in the Regional Office, we are very focused on providing direct support to countries – in line with the key WHO strategies, and based on country priorities and national contexts. Please use the opportunity of this meeting to tell us what you think countries most need from us, and how we can best support.
Thank you again for being here with us this week. I very much look forward to reviewing the outcomes of the meeting and your recommendations on next steps.