The WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy 2014–2023: A perspective

There has been a continuing demand for, and popular use of, traditional and complementary medicine (T&CM) worldwide. In some developing countries, native healers remain the sole or main health providers for millions of people living in rural areas. For instance, the ratio of traditional health practitioners to citizens in Africa is 1:500, whereas the ratio of medical doctors to citizens is 1:40,000 1. In the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, 80% of the population live in rural areas, with each village being serviced by one or two traditional health practitioners 2. Over 100 million Europeans are currently users of T&CM, with one- fth being regular users; a similar proportion choose health care that includes T&CM 3. According to a national survey in China, practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine received 907 million visits from patients in 2009, which accounts for 18% of all medical visits to surveyed institutions. Further, the number of traditional Chinese medicine inpatients was 13.6 million, or 16% of the total in all hospitals surveyed 4.

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In a few countries, certain types of traditional medicine (TM) have been completely integrated into the health care system, including China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), the Republic of Korea (South Korea), India, and Vietnam. In China, for instance, traditional Chinese medicine and conventional medicine are practiced alongside each other at every level of the health care service, and public and private insurance cover both forms of treatment.

In many other countries, T&CM is partially integrated into the national health system, while in some countries there is no integration at all.


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