13 February, 2010
Nirmala M Nagaraj
UK Foundation Moots For An Integrated System Of Healthcare
The Indian system of medicine is increasingly attracting doctors from abroad, this time from the United Kingdom. The Prince’s Foundation for Integrated Health will soon collaborate with institutes practising and promoting alternative and integrated systems of medicine. Soukya, an international holistic health centre near Whitefield, is one such institution.
Michael Dixon, the foundation’s medical director and adviser to Prince Charles, and Dr Kim A Jobst, foundation fellow, who are visiting Soukya, share their views on the collaboration and growing interest of the Western world in integrated medicine.
Excerpts from an exclusive interview with TOI:
Do you see an emerging demand for integrated medicine?
Dixon:Yes! People in the West are realizing the significance of an integrated system of medicine. Less dependence on allopathy reduces cost of investment on drugs, treatment and technology. We have many cases of drug abuse and depression. For problems like flu, alternative medicine is the only solution. There is tremendous need for it.
But in the UK, there seem to be reservations about alternative and integrated medicines...
Dixon:The pharmaceutical lobby is strong and there is opposition from allopathy doctors. But with growing awareness of the effectiveness of herbal medicines, patients are going in for integrated treatment. Even when the National Health Service provides free allopathy treatment, patients are willing to opt for integrated treatment. We need to adopt the Indian government model of supporting allopathy, AYUSH or traditional system of medicines and encouraging integrated practice.
What steps have been initiated to convince the opposition?
Dixon:Due to fear of opposition from allopathy doctors, 50% of patients undergoing integrated treatment don’t reveal it and this is leading to problems. Realizing the need to educate and create better understanding, the foundation is setting up a college of integrated health by September. The objective is to promote and create better understanding of integrated health — it’ll be a fellowship programme for medical students.
Isn’t funding for complementary treatment low?
Jobst:Integrated health is not covered under the National Health Service and funding is less than 1%. Due to allopathy doctors and the pharma lobby, research in integrated medicine is suppressed and has suffered because of low funding.
Is recession encouraging preference for alternative medicine?
Dixon:Definitely! Integrated medicine is cost–effective. Cost of healthcare is escalating. During the recession, the West realized it can’t afford it and the need for reducing health service cost was felt. There is evidence of yoga and martial arts curing stroke, diabetes and depression. Slowly, the West is looking towards complementary treatment as an alternative, starting from organic food.
How long has the foundation been campaigning for integrated healthcare?
Dixon:At the world health assembly convention in Geneva, the Prince of Wales stressed on integrated healthcare. The foundation is also playing a significant role in providing integrated and alternative medical service.
About 80% of people globally depend on traditional medicine, yet the WHO is reluctant to support integrated health...
Jobst: The pharma lobby and agencies fund the WHO. Recent proof is the panic created by international organizations against H1N1 flu and the way global market created anti–flu drugs.
What are the foundation’s plans for collaboration with Indian institutes?
Dixon:Starting with the college on integrated health, the foundation plans international collaboration with several countries. This will provide platform for sharing information. For collaboration in India, Bangalore is a natural choice. After visiting centres like Soukya, we realize that the environment here is very encouraging. In India, healthcare has retained the spiritual dimension. In the West, we have lost focus amid drugs and technology.