The Indian traditional medicine system that includes Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, and Homeopathy (AYUSH) has been boosted by the Modi Government in recent times. Many initiatives to promote AYUSH have been formulated and announced, such as: creating AYUSH wings in defense and railway hospitals; giving soft loans and subsidies for the establishment of private AYUSH hospitals and clinics, and building institutes of excellence in teaching and research in AYUSH. Also, 12,500 dedicated AYUSH health and wellness centers are planned to be set up under the Ayushman Bharat mission. There have been continuous trials in integrating the AYUSH systems and the modern healthcare sector.
It is common knowledge that AYUSH’s relationship with modern medicine has been laden with multiple issues — including quackery by AYUSH practitioners, ridicule of AYUSH treatments and procedures by many, and mindless cosmeticisation and export promotion of AYUSH products. These issues reflect the sharp status gap between modern medicine and AYUSH that is highly damaging. Stable and systematic integration would require a concerted strategy for facilitating meaningful cross-learning and collaboration between the modern and traditional systems on equal terms. This can be achieved through training of AYUSH practitioners in modern medicine through curriculum changes and vice versa.
This kind of isolationist approach goes against the cherished ideal of modern medicine to embrace concepts that are backed by evidence. In the case of traditional medicine, an isolationist attitude could deter scientific scrutiny and block some potential value addition. An integrated framework should create a middle path — fusing the two systems, while still permitting some autonomy for each. Accordingly, a medium- and long-term plan for seamless integration should be developed expeditiously in view of the massive drive for achieving universal health care already underway in the country.