India has showcased its Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) alternative medicines to the world in Dubai World Trade Centre on November 9 to 11. The UAE played host to the first international Ayush conference in the world.
India has become a hub for medical tourism. Through this it has begun to branch out into investments in healthcare infrastructure in countries throughout Africa, providing healthcare facilities directly to these areas. However, this conference marks the first large scale attempt at promoting Ayush to an international audience.
The conference revolved around a theme of ‘Lifestyle diseases – prevention and management through Ayush”. In this aspect, Ayush treatments may find some success. Lifestyle disease, or non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are on the rise globally. Even in many African nations where the burden of infectious disease is high, NCDs are becoming a more common cause of death.
Many NCDs such as cancer or high blood pressure have risk factors associated with them that are common in a western lifestyle. A lack of exercise resulting in obesity, unhealthy diets, prevalence of these risk factors are associated with a rise in NCDs. Ayush treatments such as yoga promote a healthier lifestyle that includes physical activity. This is a way in which homeopathic treatments could reduce risk factors associated with NCDs.
However, criticism of homeopathy is widespread on an international level. Many countries have banned the practice from receiving state funding, others are more vocally critical of the practice. A notable example comes from the Russian Academy of Sciences, which publically denounced homeopathic remedies as having credibility “on par with magic”.
Despite global criticism, India has continued to invest in homeopathy. In September India opened a state-of-the art laboratory at Kolkata’s Dr Anjali Chatterjee Regional Research Institute for Homoeopathy (RRIH). The purpose of the laboratory was to research homeopathic remedies into viral disease, an endeavour which has not previously been pursued to any extent by the scientific community.
Ayush therapies are not currently listed as mainstream medicine in UAE. the Ministry of Health of the UAE has listed the services as ‘traditional complementary and alternative medicine’ since 2003. Dr VL Shyam, the general secretary of the organizing committee
wishes to change this, and bring the practices into the mainstream.
To what extent the event will be successful in establishing Ayush as more than an alternative medicine is yet to be decided. UAE has announced that it wishes to become a hub for AYUSH practitioners since the event. To what extent the rest of the world will accept the practices as a standardised medicine is however a different matter.