On May 4, 2020, the Africa office of the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a statement on COVID-19 deeply at odds with policies in Europe and North America. Of the hundreds of millions of dollars with which governments and foundations are spending on research, virtually nothing is directed toward potential traditional, complementary and integrative contributions. Media coverage of the widespread interest in such approaches, when it occurs, focuses on extremes. The Wall Street Journal led with cow dung, garlic and prayer and Nature with “cow urine, bleach and cocaine” together with the broadly dismissive “pseudoscience” and “bunk”. Scores upon scores of in vitro and other trials showing antiviral activity of herbs are dismissed. In contradistinction, WHO’s statement models calmness and reason. The agency calls for research while warning about over-claims. Should WHO’s integrative, inclusive statement be actively endorsed by natural health and integrative organizations?
Two decades ago, James Gordon, MD was the chair of the top US government effort to examine integrative medicine policy. In an August 20, 2019 blogpost, the integrative psychiatrist shared how 50 years ago he traveled with crisis intervention nurse Sharon Curtin and singer Joan Baez to Woodstock where he treated hundreds of hallucinating attendees through a co-caring model. His August 9, 2019 letter to the New York Times challenged the Trumpian portrayal of mass-shootings motivated only by mental illness. Gordon described himself this way: “Though my professional work is devoted largely to trauma healing for survivors of such mass murders — and of wars, state-sponsored torture and climate-related disasters — I have known and treated a number of violent extremists, including mass murderers.” Trauma is us. On September 10, 2019, trauma hot-spots healer Gordon has a new book coming out on the transformation needed. I reached him for a brief interview.
The recent 72nd World Health Assembly – the May 2019 edition of WHO’s annual global health gathering in Geneva – offered unusually powerful windows into the advances of traditional, complementary and integrative medicine (TCIM) internationally. A WHO progress report detailed the expanding regulatory context for traditional medicine practice. Exemplar nations participated in a TCIM briefing session (all presentations available publicly). In parallel, the approval of a separate WHO initiative, long in development, to include Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) codes in the 11th version of WHO’s international classification of diseases (ICD-11) received major push back.