World Health Organization (WHO)

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Home » Resources » Traditional Knowledge & the UN » World Health Organization (WHO)

World Health Organization (WHO)

The World Health Organization (WHO) has adopted a Traditional Medicine Strategy 2002-2005. It defines traditional medicine as including diverse health practices, approaches, knowledge and beliefs incorporating plant, animal, and/or mineral based medicines, spiritual therapies, manual techniques and exercises applied singularly or in combination to maintain well-being, as well as to treat, diagnose or prevent illness.

The strategy has four main objectives, in line with those of the WHO medicines strategy:

  • to integrate relevant aspects of traditional medicine within national health care systems by framing national traditional medicine policies and implementing programmes;
  • to promote the safety, efficacy and quality of traditional medicine practices by providing guidance on regulatory and quality assurance standards;
  • to increase access to, and affordability of, traditional medicine;
  • to promote rational use of traditional medicine.

In 2003 the World Health Assembly (Resolution WHA56.31) urged member states to support and implement the strategy, and requested the Director-General to collaborate with other organizations of the United Nations system and nongovernmental organizations in various areas related to traditional medicine, including research, protection of traditional medical knowledge and conservation of medicinal plant resources.

The WHO has established a network of WHO Collaborating Centres for Traditional Medicine, of which there are currently nineteen. Further details of the Strategy, the WHA Resolution and the Collaborating Centres can be found by following the links below.

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