Uganda’s Minister of Health (MoH), Dr Ruhakana Rugunda has urged health workers to learn from China that has effectively integrated traditional with modern medicine to improve the health of its people. He recommended this at a 3-days conference on Traditional Medicine (TM) currently going on at Hotel Africana under the theme: “Promoting evidence based use of traditional medicine in the health care system; an opportunity for improving equity in health care”.
In a speech read for him by the Commissioner of Health Services Dr Alex Opio, Hon Rugunda highlighted the importance of TM noting that it is more accessible to the communities and is practiced by people who are well known in the communities and who command a lot of respect in the communities.
It is out of that recognition that Hon Rugunda recommended stronger collaboration with China and other countries that have done well on TM. He however called for effective regulatory controls of traditional medicine products and practice noting that “it has great potential to contribute to public health and productivity”.
In her remarks also read by Dr Opio, the Director General of Health Services Dr Jane Ruth Aceng reported that in Uganda, over 60% of the population uses traditional medicine as the primary source of health care. She added that traditional Medicine use in Uganda is steadily increasing because of globalization, improved public-confidence and inequity in access to conventional medicine.
Dr Aceng also reported that the MoH is promoting research under the umbrella of Uganda National Research Organization (UNRO) as recommended by the WHO Regional Strategy on Traditional Medicine. The Ministry is also working on the legal framework, with a bill on indigenous and complementary medicine aimed at improving regulation and strict control of traditional medicine being developed.
Speaking on behalf of the World Health Organization (WHO) Country Representative, the WHO Technical Officer for Essential Medicines, Mr Joseph Mwoga underscored the point that the theme of the conference cannot be realized without Research & Development and that this needs to be part of the national health research agenda. He said that closer links need to be forged between the traditional medicine and conventional health services in order to facilitate the utilization of research results in traditional medicine.
He encouraged the Government and partners to use WHO guidelines for continuing education of traditional health practitioners in Primary Health Care and for health science students in traditional medicine.
The conference that has brought together policy makers, researchers, traditional medicine practitioners, academia, the private sector and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) is intended to enable participants share research work and methodologies for studies on safety, efficacy and quality of traditional medicine.
They will also discuss best practices in capacity building; research collaborations between scientists; biomedical community and traditional medicine practitioners; priorities for research in traditional medicine; and advocate for research funding in traditional medicine in the health sector budget.