WHO TCM Strategy

February 27, 2014 at 2:27 am (Alternative Medicine) (, , )

The World Health Organisation has published this document: PDF. It’s their traditional medicine strategy for 2014-23. Here’s just one of the things that raised an eyebrow or two:

Strategic actions for Member States:

1. Based on the greatest potential risks and/or benefits attributable to T&CM used in their country:

a. monitor the safety of T&CM;

b. identify sources of evidence, whether historical, traditional or scientific, which support or invalidate a particular therapy;

c. determine the risk/benefit profile, including cost-effectiveness.

I couldn’t imagine a WHO document proposing this approach to, say, vaccination or drinking water strategies. They’re actually saying that member states should identify sources of non-scientific evidence and determine the risk/benefit profile of ‘traditional medicines’. I’m not even sure what historical or traditional evidence of effectiveness might entail, let alone how these types of evidence might be incorporated into a risk/benefit analysis. As I’m slightly perplexed by this, I decided to email the WHO and ask for some clarification.

In the meantime, by way of comparison, here’s what their water quality strategy document says:

1.3 This strategy, centred on primary prevention of waterborne and water-related diseases, has the following five strategic objectives for the period 2013 to 2020:

1. Obtain the most rigorous and relevant evidence regarding water quality and health



  1. CargoUK said,

    Jdc I’ve had a quick skim through the first few sections of the WHO document and my first impression is that so far it’s entirely an argumentum ad populam, with a bit of ‘hey- it’s cheap’ thrown in. Maybe it gets better.

    “other recent study indicates that patients whose general practitioner has additional complementary and alternative medicine training have lower health care costs and mortality rates than those who do not. Reduced costs were the outcome of fewer hospital stays and fewer prescription drugs (31)”

    What struck me there was the similarities with ‘better mortality rates’ to the homeopathic/allopathic argument. I can think of a few confounding factors there (more training/attention, familiarity with traditional systems doing less harm than the types of things we know happen with those newly trained on unfamiliar SBM interventions).

    Nice catch. Let’s see how they answer.

  2. CarstopUS said,

    “I couldn’t imagine a WHO document proposing this approach to, say, vaccination”

    Well certainly no, vaccination has a mythical belief system all of its own, only theology could ratify it, ie make any sense of it as a concept let alone a therapy with any credible EBM.

  3. Martin said,

    As long as it’s evidence.

    I think the problem here is that ‘scientific’ is being used in a way that equates with ‘academic research’, which let’s face it many people do, but it’s not the only way of finding at least preliminary indicators of efficacy.

    There should, of course, be ‘further work’, but if communities have traditions that are good proxies for better health than they can be developed and shared in ways that are socially more acceptable than ‘big white man from europe tells you to do things differently’.

    I worked for a short while with pastoralists in East Africa who, rather than take practice from the theories developed by Europeans and lecture the locals, spent their time doing a kind of peer-to-peer knowledge share amongst the local pastoralists and took some of the lessons they learned back home to add to the academic literature.

  4. Mythbuster said,

    What struck me……………cargo

    Was how all you did was try and cherry pick any spurious link to something you deem fallacious and avoid engaging in anyway with the point of the post.

    The beginners guide to septicism….avoiding facts and actions in the real world and super imposing bullshit from pseudo science medico!

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