It is time to bring about a corrective with massive program of training and skill building of local health workers for both preventive health and also curative one
While interacting with the leaders of AYUSH system in India, it became clear that many major shifts are warranted to make Ayurveda a system of the first choice in synergy with other components of AYUSH system. After examining more than seven lakh patients, a recent study of a few of the leading Non-communicable disease enrolled 81,000 patients from different parts of the country. The interaction of Ayurvedic drugs, lifestyle changes and yoga etc., in ths study led by Dr K S Dhiman and his team at CCRAS, AYUSH ministry has created a landmark in showing how this system can show positive results at a very large scale. If we use free patient self-help and monitoring apps like HPS Wellness, then tracking these patients and empowering them about their own self-care after the study is over will become much easier. This app by Dr Chandrashekhar Desai and his team deserves a careful study and test even by other doctors who may like to monitor compliance and also synergy between allopathic and other systems of healing.
Vaidya Rajesh Kotecha, secretary, AYUSH has a golden opportunity in front of him to bring about a paradigmatic shift in the country's strategy for keeping poor and needy people healthy. What else could be done to move away from the notion that health is not just an absence of sickness? Health is a much more comprehensive state of well-being. It blends optimism with a healthy lifestyle, food, the worldview of life and a caring and sharing attitude. Some more suggestions that can ensure the healthy growth of AYUSH system are:
a) Creation of national Network of various UG and postgraduate departments of botany, phytochemistry, pharmacy, microbiology, food technology, biochemistry etc., to have a network approach to validation and value addition in folkloric claims of healers with due protection of their IPRs and ensuring benefit sharing. NIF could help in coordination of such a network along with SRISTI, NIA, CCRAS and AYUSH ministry. This will help in expanding ayurvedic pharmacopeia every year in a time bound manner. Let NIF become the hub of such a long term plan in close cooperation with AYUSH and Honey Bee Network.
b) Setting up a National Medicinal plant Corporation is necessary with private, state and civil society participation to provide a corporate support to the entire value chains. The medicinal plant board can continue to support the cultivation of the plants and other related matters. This corporation will ensure that protocols of sustainable extraction of medicinal plants from wild and other are developed in a time-bound manner. It will also ensure that export of raw materials gives way to value-added products.
c) Establishing a start-up venture and angel fund for young AYUSH practioners to set up new innovative enterprises. It should be set up on the similar limes as BIRAC in conceptualising which I played a small role a decade ago.
d) Facilitating a National Healers Network in collaboration with FRLHT, NIF, the Honey bee Network, CSIR, ICMR, DBT, NIA and AYUSH ministry and all other groups working on folkloric claims. The persistent practice of publishing knowledge of local communities without any acknowledgement, authorship, prior informed consent and protection of IPRs of local communities must not be given any legitimacy. One of the reason for setting Honey Bee Network and its affiliated institutions SRISTI (1993), GIAN (1997) and NIF (2000) was to ensure that highest ethical standards are followed in dealing the people's knowledge systems. This Network will ensure rights of local communities on knowledge hitherto not disclosed in public domain are not published till steps are taken to protect these as evident from 265 patent applications filed by NIF in the healers name as community representatives. These patents are akin to Technology Commons and these are never asserted against fellow healers. So for them, it is an open source knowledge but for the firms, these claims can be used only through licensing.
e) Developing a strong data analytics capability in AYUSH institutions is needed to ensure that scientific evidence backed up by rigorous statistical analysis becomes available to society to compliment allopathic systems.
f) It is a bit strange that Ayushman Bharat, Asha system of local health and several other policies have completely ignored the role of AYUSH system in keeping people healthy. It is time to bring about a corrective with massive program of training and skill building of local health workers for both preventive health and also curative one.
g) Making TKDL (Traditional Knowledge Digital Library) accessible to all Indian scholars and industry for developing value added products and advance further research can not be dlayed any further.
The author is founder of Honey Bee Network & visiting faculty at IIM-A