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UPSC Sansad TV: Perspective- Heal in India

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Introduction:

AYUSH’ denotes Ayurveda, Yoga, Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy. With people from different countries of the world coming to India for treatment in large numbers, India has emerged as one of the fastest growing Medical Tourism Centres in Asia. Market size of the AYUSH sector has grown by 17% p.a. from 2014 to 2020 and it is further projected to reach 23.3 billion US Dollars in FY 2022. With an aim to further boost Medical Tourism, the government has launched ‘Heal in India’ programme. In a bid to promote the traditional medicine industry Prime Minister Modi in April this year announced that India will soon launch `AYUSH mark’ which will provide authenticity to AYUSH products made in India. He also announced a special visa category for those who want to travel to the country to avail of AYUSH therapies.

Role of AYUSH in realizing the dream of ‘New India’:

  • A number of initiatives to promote AYUSH have been recently announced.
    • Creation of AYUSH wings in defence and railway hospitals.
    • Providing soft loans and subsidies for the establishment of private AYUSH hospitals and clinics.
    • Establishing institutes of excellence in teaching and research in AYUSH.
    • 12,500 dedicated AYUSH health and wellness centers are planned to be set up under the Ayushman Bharat mission.
  • AYUSH, represent a pluralistic and integrative scheme of health services. AYUSH can play an important role in realizing the dream of ‘New India’ by providing quality healthcare and medical care for its citizens. The ‘New India’ also needs to be a ‘Healthy India’ where its own traditional systems can play a significant role.
  • With statistics repeatedly indicating that there is a severe shortage of doctors in India with a mere 80 doctors per lakh population. AYUSH provides a way to increase healthcare access
  • AYUSH presents an opportunity to realize the potential of medical pluralism in the current environment where prevention is emphasized along with curative aspects.
  • AYUSH industry may create 26 mn jobs by 2020 according to Government reports.
  • Given the rising popularity of AYUSH and alternative medicine, AYUSH could help boost medical tourism in India.

Challenges faced:

  • Non-integration into mainstream medicineOur efforts to mainstream AYUSH medicine has been to regard that the major problem lies in the fact that there is a very less proportion of AYUSH in the present mix. Hence, the integration of AYUSH into the health-care system has been focused on having more AYUSH facilities or having them in the place where there aren’t any without worrying about the actual effectiveness of such a move.
  • Status gap: The subservient status of AYUSH has been the major hurdle. AYUSH has been fraught with multiple issues like including dishonest practices and claims by some AYUSH practitioners leading to the ridicule of AYUSH treatments and procedures by sceptics. The mindless cosmeticisation and export promotion of AYUSH products has led to a bad perception of AYUSH.
  • Historically, attempts at integration have been foiled by parties from both within and outside the AYUSH sector. In keeping with the recommendations of the Chopra Committee (1948), baby steps were taken to integrate the teaching of traditional and modern systems of medicines, proposals that were later scrapped.
  • The isolationist approach goes against the cherished ideal of modern medicine to embrace concepts that are backed by evidence. In the case of traditional medicine, an isolationist attitude could deter scientific scrutiny and block some potential value addition.
  • Quality standards of Medicines: Scientific validation of AYUSH has not progressed in spite of dedicated expenditure in past.
  • Lack of human resources: Practitioners are moving away from traditional system for better opportunities
  • The existing infrastructure remains under-utilized.
  • The 2013 Shailaja Chandra report on the status of Indian medicine and folk healing, commissioned by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, noted several instances in States where National Rural Health Mission-recruited AYUSH physicians were the sole care providers in PHCs and called for the appropriate skilling of this cadre to meet the demand for acute and emergency care at the primary level.

Way forward:

  • It is important to gather scientific evidence for the safety and efficacy of AYUSH medicines and practices.
  • Work towards capacity building and developing a critical mass of competent professionals in the AYUSH sector through quality education and training at national and international levels.
  • True integration of traditional and modern systems is the need of the hour. This would require a concerted strategy for facilitating meaningful cross-learning and collaboration between the modern and traditional systems on equal terms.
  • The Chinese experience of integrating Traditional Chinese Medicine with Western medicine makes for a good example.
  • An Indian parallel could envision the integration of education, research, and practice of both systems at all levels. This can include training of AYUSH practitioners in modern medicine through curriculum changes and vice versa.
  • Need to ensure substantial groundwork with respect to the prerequisites of an effective integration.
  • Building a strong traditional medicine evidence corpus.
  • Standardizing and regulating AYUSH practices and qualifications.
  • Delineating the relative strengths, weaknesses, and role of each system in an integrated framework.
  • Negotiating the philosophical and conceptual divergences between systems.
  • Addressing the unique issues associated with research into AYUSH techniques.
  • An integrated framework should create a middle path — fusing the two systems, while still permitting some autonomy for each.
  • Accordingly, a medium- and long-term plan for seamless integration should be developed expeditiously in view of the massive drive for achieving universal health care already underway in the country and considering the vast potential of AYUSH to contribute to this cause.