WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy 2014-2023
Traditional medicine (TM) is an important and often underestimated part of
health services. In some countries, traditional medicine or non-conventional
medicine may be termed complementary medicine (CM). TM has a long
history of use in health maintenance and in disease prevention and treatment,
particularly for chronic disease.
The WHO Traditional Medicine (TM) Strategy 2014–2023 was developed in
response to the World Health Assembly resolution on traditional medicine
(WHA62.13) (1). The goals of the strategy are to support Member States in:
n harnessing the potential contribution of TM to health, wellness and peoplecentred
n promoting the safe and effective use of TM by regulating, researching and
integrating TM products, practitioners and practice into health systems,
The strategy aims to support Member States in developing proactive policies
and implementing action plans that will strengthen the role TM plays in keeping
populations healthy. It seeks to build upon the WHO Traditional Medicine
Strategy 2002–2005, which reviewed the status of TM globally and in Member
States, and set out four key objectives:
n policy — integrate TM within national health care systems, where feasible,
by developing and implementing national TM policies and programmes.
n safety, efficacy and quality — promote the safety, efficacy and quality of TM
by expanding the knowledge base, and providing guidance on regulatory
and quality assurance standards.
n access — increase the availability and affordability of TM, with an emphasis
on access for poor populations.
n rational use — promote therapeutically sound use of appropriate TM by
practitioners and consumers.
Despite significant progress made in implementing this strategy around the
world, Member States continue to experience challenges related to:
n development and enforcement of policy and regulations;
n integration, in particular identifying and evaluating strategies and criteria
for integrating TM into national and primary health care (PHC);
n safety and quality, notably assessment of products and services, qualification
of practitioners, methodology and criteria for evaluating efficacy;
n ability to control and regulate TM and CM (T&CM) advertising and claims;
n research and development;
n education and training of T&CM practitioners;
n information and communication, such as sharing information about
policies, regulations, service profiles and research data, or obtaining reliable
objective information resources for consumers.
This new strategy document aims to address these challenges. It will require
Member States to determine their own national situations in relation to T&CM,
and then to develop and enforce policies, regulations and guidelines that reflect
these realities. Member States can rise to these challenges by organizing their
activities in the following three strategic sectors:
1. build the knowledge base that will allow T&CM to be managed actively
through appropriate national policies that understand and recognize the
role and potential of T&CM.
2. strengthen the quality assurance, safety, proper use and effectiveness of
T&CM by regulating products, practices and practitioners through T&CM
education and training, skills development, services and therapies.
3. promote universal health coverage by integrating T&CM services into
health service delivery and self-health care by capitalizing on their potential
contribution to improve health services and health outcomes, and by
ensuring users are able to make informed choices about self-health care.
For each objective, the strategy identifies a number of actions to guide Member
States, partners and stakeholders, and WHO. The strategy supports Member
States in designing and implementing a strategic plan in accordance with their
WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy
own national capacities, priorities, relevant legislation and circumstances. Its
aim is to assist Member States in determining and prioritizing their needs, to
provide for effective delivery of services, to support appropriate regulations
and policy development and to ensure that these products and practices are
It is anticipated that WHO will initiate a review of the implementation of this
strategy approximately halfway through its term. This midterm review will be
important in ensuring that the strategy is still relevant and timely as WHO and
its stakeholders move into the final five years of the forthcoming mandate.