Via Bhushan Patwardhan, PhD, an editorial board member at JACM-Paradigm, Practice and Policy Advancing Integrative Health (The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine), I was invited to write a backgrounder and participate in an October 8, 2020 presentation to the “Committee on Formulation of Integrative Health Policy” of India’s National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog). Aayog is a Hindi term for “policy commission.” I was introduced to the Committee by Vinod Paul, MD, who heads up the Health and Nutrition “verticals” for the NITI Aayog. The policy commission is developing directions across a range of India’s strategic interests. This Committee’s charge is to make recommendations on implementing integrative health country-wide. In my presentation, I chose to focus on 5 Key Factors learned on the ground here. I closed by sharing shared one remarkable model.
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?
While I never attended Bastyr University, I did work an intense and heady 6-year span there from 1983-1989 as John Bastyr College of Naturopathic Medicine transitioned to Bastyr College on its way to its present stature. We fought to make it the first broad-scope education in natural health sciences to gain accreditation via a United States Department of Education approved agency. That winning campaign – an overt battle against antagonistic cultural political forces – was for me a sort of Marine Corp experience resulting in a Semper Fi! that, while its had its ups and downs, has at minimum left me paying attention to Bastyr’s work and that of its graduates. So when the Seattle Times published an article on the COVID-19 research at local conventional medical institutions, I recalled two significant action of Bastyr graduates relative to COVID-19 that merited mention. I drafted an Op-Ed that was rejected. They noted that they are seeing “an unprecedented number of Op-Ed submissions on the coronavirus” and finished with a kind (if routine) door-closing statement: “Respectfully, I am going to pass on it, but I hope you find a publication able to take it.” I decided to visit it on you.
The Integrator Blog News & Reports annually marks the winter solstice with a Top 10 for Policy and Action in Integrative Health and Medicine. In the selection of the Top 10, “the accent is on the affirmative” as the jazzman sings. Thus the Coming of the Light from individuals and organizations in the field making positive contributions to shift the medical industry toward a system that focuses on creating health. Less positive things sometimes make the list. Integrator articles are now published at johnweeks-integrator.com/posts with content going back to 2006 at the original Integrator site, Prior Top 10 lists, a sort of Cliff Notes of the movement’s history, are linked at the bottom of this column. Below are the Top 10 for 2019. Happy Solstice!