Alternative medicine practitioners happy

A fresh wave of hope has spread across the fraternity of doctors practising the alternative systems of medicine, with the Union Budget planning to mainstream ayurveda, Unani, siddha and homoeopathy through the National Health Mission and allocate Rs 1,069 crore to the Department of AYUSH.

Dr R A Mashelkar, scientist emeritus who was vice-chairman of the Planning Commission's strategic group on health, told Newsline that the focus would be on bringing both modern and alternate systems of medicine together. "The Chinese government spends a sizeable amount on their ancient system of medicine like acupuncture, while the Indian government has in the past allotted minimal amounts to encourage the alternative systems of medicine," Mashelkar said, welcoming the decision.

"We had debated the proposals in October last year at the Planning Commission's meeting and I am glad that they have decided to mainstream the alternative systems through the National Health Mission," he added. Dr Bhushan Patwardhan, Director of the Inter-Disciplinary School of Health Sciences at University of Pune who was also in the task force of the Planning Commission, said they had strongly recommended that alternate systems of medicine should be encouraged to boost trans-disciplinary research.

According to Dr Arun Jhamkar, Vice-Chancellor of the Maharashtra University of Health Science (MUHS), encouraging ayurvedic research could also boost economy. "There are 60 ayurveda colleges, five Unani and 40 homoeopathy colleges. Focus on evidence-based research from among the Indian system of medicine will ensure newer drugs that will be cheaper and more effective," he Jhamkar.

Pune's Tilak Ayurved College and Tarachand hospital managing trustee Dr Suhas Parchure said the budgetary provision for AYUSH should also be translated in terms of teaching and maintenance grants for colleges that struggle to pay salaries to retain staff. While ayurvedic and homeopathic practitioners will now be recruited under the National Rural Health Mission for various posts, Parchure said, there was also a need to provide grants to improve infrastructure at ayurveda colleges.

For rheumatologist Dr Arvind Chopra, who has conducted a slew of research projects based on the ayurveda, welcomed the Union Budget proposal, saying there was need for vibrant and robust research to bring alternate systems of medicine on par with modern medicine to find solutions to the community's medical and public health problems. Homoeopath Dr Sunil Anand also pointed out that various hospitals had already included alternate systems of medicine in their OPD and it was a positive development.

Elderly healthcare allocation praised

Dr R A Mashelkar, as President of the International Longevity Centre, India, welcomed the Union Budget proposal to provide Rs 150 crore for the National Programme for the Health Care of the Elderly that is being implemented in 100 districts of 21 states. "We have already introduced programmes like 'Aajibaicha batwa' that provides healthcare aid to widows. Various policy measures have also been advocated to ensure care and support and improve the quality of life for the elderly population," he said.

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