A three day National Workshop on 'Traditional Medicine and Immunology" was organized during 23-25 September 1988 in Ahmedabad. The workshop was coordinated by the Lok Swas-thya Parampara Samvardhan Samithi (LSPSS) under the auspices of the National Technology Mission of Immunisation, and hosted by trie Gujarat Ayurved University at Jamnagar. The venue was the Gandhi Labor institute at Ahmedabad.

The Technology Mission on Immunization had been initiated in 1987 with the major objective of immunizing all pregnant women against tetanus and infants against the six vaccine-preventable diseases, namely, Diphtheria, Pertusis, Tetanus, Polio, Measles and Tuberculosis. It was suggested by the LSPSS during the summer of 1988 to the Technology Mission that it was important to explore the contributions that Indigenous Systems of Medicines (ISMs) could make on the basis of their own principles towards the prevention of such diseases. Subsequently, preliminary work was undertake to consult scholars of ISM, academics, private practitioners as well as Departments of ISMs in various States and research bodies such as the Central Council for Research in Ayurveda and Siddha (CCRAS) and Central Council for Research in Unani Medicine etc. On the basis of this work it was decided to concentrate on the four following areas:

  1. Preventive measures available with ISM's for the ten diseases - Diphtheria, Whooping Cough, Tetanus, Polio, Measles, Tuberculosis, Malaria, Diarrhea, Hepatitis and Acute Respiratory Tract Infections.

  2. Lines of treatment available with ISM's for the above ten diseases.

  3. Measures for raising the general immunity, particularly for the following four target groups Pregnant women, lactating mothers, neo-natals and infants.

  4. Polio Rehabilitation.

Apart from contacting individuals and research institutes, the LSPSS also organized regional meetings in Tamil Nadu, Kamataka, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Gujarat where State-level seminars were held and suggestions and specific proposals from ISM experts compiled. A cross-section of modern medical practitioners including pediatricians, immunologists and pharmacologists were also contacted to explore the possibilities of identifying areas of collaboration with ISM practitioners.

The national workshop in September was attended by about 85 experts and scientists from different parts of India. They included Acharyas, scientists from the field of modern medicine, representatives of voluntary agencies as well as Government officials and policy makers. The conference was inaugurated by Shri. Satyen Pitroda, advisor to the Prime Minister on Technology Missions. On the first day, the initial session was devoted to an exposition of the basic concepts and principles related to immunity in indigenous systems of health. This session also included specific proposals by ISM physicians to raise the general immunity in the four target groups. These included their application, potential and limitations.

On the second day, the first session was an introduction to the contemporary relevance of traditional systems of sciences and technologies with special reference to traditional medical systems. This session touched upon the theoretical foundations of Indian sciences and technologies as well as on some features of their methodology and approach as distinct from modern Western systems. The second session discussed the lines of treatment for selected diseases based on ISM. An introductory lecture on an Ayurvedic approach to therapeutics was followed by presentations on the treatment of Bal-atisar (Infantile diarrhea) based on Ayurveda and Siddha systems. There was also a report from the work of CCRAS (Central Council for Research in Ayurveda and Siddha) on the treatment of Malaria. The result of field trials conducted by the Council as well as Jamnagar University for Malaria treatment was also discussed. Then there were presentations on the treatment of Kamala (Hepatitis) which is one of the areas where ISM's have demonstrated their success.

The next session was devoted to Polio rehabilitation based on ISM principles. A number of reports from various parts of the country detailed the use of Panchakarma in the Ayurvedic approach to Polio treatment as well as in rehabilitation. The use of Marma Chikitsa in accordance with the Siddha system was also described.

On the third day the first session was on preventive measures for selected diseases based on ISM principles. They ranged from general practices based on Ayurveda and also various specific procedures such as Rtu Charya (Seasonal adaptation) the use of Nasya Karma (Nasal drops) and of specific herbs such as Neem. The final session was devoted to the creation and promotion of herbal gardens with a specific emphasis on growing plants for use in primary health care.

The conference was indeed a unique one where ISM physicians participated actively in the debate directed at the National Health Programme and it activities. It is significant that their participation was solely on the basis of their own principles and practice of their own systems of medicine. The conference attempted to iniate a.dialogue.between ISM physicians and modern medical practitioners in a spirit of mutual respect and specifically avoided the prevalent trend*of "evaluating" traditional health practices on the basis of th principles and methods of modern medical science.. For example even now, the Ministry of Health involves ISM physicians only as technicians - that is merely to administer the vaccine. But this seminar struck a different note and its proceedings suggested that the ISM community should be respectfully invited to study the vaccines in question in the light of their own pharmacology and on this basis be more meaningfully involved in the National Immunization programme.

Subsequently, a coordination committee was formed for follow-up action based on the proceedings of the conference. The Committee which held its first meeting in Bombay on 14-15th January 1989 has decided to concentrate on the following four action items.

  1. Present specific recommendations to Central and State Governments for strengthening the medicinal plants resource base in the 8th Five Year Plan in the context of primary health care.

  2. Organize joint studies between ISM and modern experts with regard to Polio rehabilitation, infantile diarrhea and hepatitis.

  3. Study of vaccines by ISM experts in the light of their own scientific parameters.

  4. Create a National wide consensus amongst the ISM community about priority programmes in which they could contribute to National Health Care. This includes the preparation and circulation of booklets for lines of treatment and preventive measures for various diseases as well as the raising of general immunity based on ISM principles.

For all the above areas separate committees have been constituted and specific time bound programmes drawn up.

Author:A.V. Balasubramanian


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