The World Health Organisation (WHO) remains committed to assisting the Government of Ghana in sustainably integrating traditional medicine into mainstream healthcare toward universal health coverage. Professor Francis Kasolo, the WHO Country Representative to Ghana said the Organisation believed that the promotion of the herbal industry would position Ghana to harness its naturally endowed fortunes of rich and unique biodiversity of aromatic and medicinal plants for the desired economic transformation. 'WHO would continue to provide assistance, tools, guidelines, assist with capacity building, and leverage our existing networks and practices to promote collaboration and expertise to improve the integration and access to Traditional Medicine (TRM) products and services,' Prof Kasolo said his keynote address at the occasion of the second Centre for Plant Medicine Research (CPMR) Oku Ampofo Memorial (COAM) International Conference in Accra. The conference, which was on the theme 'Sustainable and safe Integrative Healthcare towards Universal Health Coverage and Economic Transformation', was organised by CPMR in collaboration with the Ghana Federation of Traditional Medicine Practitioners Association (GHAFTRAM), and attracted participants from across sub-Saharan Africa. Prof Kasolo said the timing of the conference was also appropriate, as this year marks the conclusion of the plans of action that were approved by heads of state and government 20 years ago to implement Traditional Medicine activities. 'We therefore need to reflect on where we are coming from, where we are and what the future holds in the area of traditional medicine'. He said African traditional medicine had played a vital healthcare role in many African communities; adding that it draws on Africa's rich and unique biodiversity of aromatic and medicinal plants. He said accessibility, availability, affordability, cultural acceptance as well as spiritual, religious, and sociological values make them a preferred option for many people. 'Still today, 80 per cent of the African continent's population rely on traditional medicine for their basic health needs,' he said. 'In Ghana, it is estimated that between 60 - 70 per cent of patients depend on traditional medicine for their healthcare needs.' He lauded Ghana's Ministry of Health for continuously taking leadership in the regulation and capacity-building of Traditional medicine practitioners for improved service delivery. He said the WHO recognises that Traditional Medicine practitioners are an important stakeholder in the healthcare delivery system and therefore encourages the continuous strengthening of their capacity, especially at the primary healthcare level. He said the WHO encourages Ghana to systematically include traditional medicine products in other health-related training programmes to complement the efforts of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, which has been training Herbal Medicine practitioners since 2001. 'We also encourage that practice of traditional medicine continues to be linked to an existing network of facilities and the practitioners be equipped with the ability to refer seriously ill clients to referral facilities with expertise in orthodox and alternative medical care.' The Country Representative said in relation to research, there were 34 institutes in the African Region dedicated to traditional medicines research and development, one of which was Ghana's Centre CPMR. Adding the CPMR has promoted research and development of traditional medicines and has collaborated with traditional health practitioners since the mid-1970s. Prof Kasolo said studies had shown that the herbal medicine industry was one of the fastest-growing industries in the world with a projected market value of $177.65 billion by 2029. He noted that due to the significantly substantial number of people that were involved in the value chain of the herbal medicine industry, it was deemed a major source of employment in Ghana. Madam Tina Gifty Naa Ayeley Mensah, a Deputy Minister of Health, said healthcare should not be seen as a cost and that it represents an investment in the nation's future. Prof Alex Asase, Executive Director, CPMR, said the Centre had so far developed 37 herbal products for the management of both communicable and non-communicable diseases through its scientific research and development programs. He reiterated the need for adequate resourcing of the Centre to enable it to deliver on its mandate. Nana Kobena Nketsia V, Omanhen of Essikado Traditional Area, who chaired the occasion, urged Africans to take charge of their own healthcare delivery system.
Source: Ghana News Agency