Online Program

Of Three Tendencies: An Historical Analysis of Indian policy approaches towards non-allopathic healing systems and non-systems (1943-2013)

Tuesday, November 3, 2015 : 3:45 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Devaki Nambiar, PhD, Public Health Foundation of India, Gurgaon, India
In 2014, India’s newly elected government announced the National AYUSH Mission – a focussed policy reform agenda that seeks to propel non-allopathic systems of medicine to unprecedented levels of prominence in the health system. Is this a bold new step forward a familiar re-enactment of policy moves in the context of Indian history?

We undertook an historical analysis of policy pronouncements related to health system provisioning and non-allopathic systems (and non-systems) of medicine to place recent policy moves in context. In depth content analysis was carried out of three national policies, twelve expert committee reports (from 1943 to 2013), and official policymaking documents of India by two senior and two junior researchers using grounded analysis methodology.

Three broad tendencies of Indian policy were identified, that have alternated from the past through to present day: the first, present in various Indian Five Year Plans and the first National Health Policy sees the path for alternative systems by establishing their ‘scientific temper’ in the larger mould of biomedicine. The second approach sees the codified systems – mostly Ayurveda- as the fulcrum of a synthesis of various systems which can stand tantamount to biomedicine and be taught alongside (although in a clear hierarchy that can be seen to sideline other non-allopathic systems and indeed, non-systems). The final tendency is premised on the value of local-ness of healing, pointing towards the need to involve community health practitioners who may be from various systems of medicine and may offer “an alternative model of health care built on the best of tradition and modern science…community rooted…non-consumerist” while also reaching the most remote and marginalised of Indian populations.  

Elements of each have been manifest in various policy provisions over time, although most recently, not least given the burden of non-communicable diseases in India, one sees the emergence of a discourse of ‘medical pluralism’ where “no single system of health care has the capacity to solve all of  society’s health needs.”  Similarly, no one tendency appears to predominate, reflecting medical pluralism not just in the multiplicity of systems and non-systems, but also policy visions encompassing them.

Learning Areas:

Diversity and culture
Public health or related organizational policy, standards, or other guidelines
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Describe key historical policies related to alternative systems (and non-systems) of medicine in India Differentiate between the key ontological position they espouse

Keyword(s): Alternative and Complementary Health, International Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a senior researcher in the team that has carried out this analysis, building on three years of prior research in this area, and an ongoing multi-state project.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.