Traditional, complementary and integrative healthcare: global stakeholder perspective on WHO’s current and future strategy

As the ‘WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy: 2014–2023’ is entering its final phase, reflection is warranted on progress and the focus for a new strategy. We used WHO documentation to analyse progress across the objectives of the current strategy, adding the role of traditional, complementary and integrative healthcare (TCIH) to address specific diseases as a dimension absent in the current strategy. Our analysis concludes on five areas. First, TCIH research is increasing but is not commensurate with TCIH use. TCIH research needs prioritisation and increased funding in national research policies and programmes. Second, WHO guidance for training and practice provides useful minimum standards but regulation of TCIH practitioners also need to reflect the different nature of formal and informal practices. Third, there has been progress in the regulation of herbal medicines but TCIH products of other origin still need addressing. A risk-based regulatory approach for the full-range of TCIH products seems appropriate and WHO should provide guidance in this regard. Fourth, the potential of TCIH to help address specific diseases is often overlooked. The development of disease strategies would benefit from considering the evidence and inclusion of TCIH practices, as appropriate. Fifth, inclusion of TCIH in national health policies differs between countries, with some integrating TCIH practices and others seeking to restrict them. We encourage a positive framework in all countries that enshrines the role of TCIH in the achievement of universal health coverage. Finally, we encourage seeking the input of stakeholders in the development of the new WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy.

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