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The Role of Homeopathy in India’s Healthcare System

The-Role-of-Homeopathy-in-India's-Healthcare-System

What is Homeopathy?

Homeopathy is one of the complementary or alternative medical systems under the Ministry of Ayush. It varies from other complementary and conventional medical systems in different parts of the world. Unlike other systems, it is based on the principles of individuation, similimum, and holistic approach. It was developed in the 1790s by a German physician Dr. Samuel Hahnemann. He was a conventional medical practitioner before inventing homeopathy. He believed that the “treatment” where a substance that causes specific symptoms can also help to remove those symptoms. One of the other central principles is the process of dilution through a series of a process called succussion. Homeopathy believes that the more a substance is diluted, the greater its power to treat symptoms. 

Common conditions for which people approach homeopathy

Homeopathy can be used to treat many conditions successfully. But it also has its limitation. Some conditions need conventional treatment. In such cases, homeopathic medicines can be taken as complementary medicine for a patient’s faster recovery. 

Though homeopathy is the world’s second most-used medicine, patients approach homeopathy only after trying and taking conventional treatment for a long time. During that period, the disease might have progressed pathologically, so it takes longer to treat the patient at that stage. However, in many conditions where homeopathic treatment is started immediately after diagnosis and in children whose immune system is unaffected by toxins, the homeopathic system of medicine acts very well, leading to a cure. 

Ear infections, depression, insomnia, sinusitis, stress and anxiety, skin problems, menstrual problems, common colds, and allergic asthma are the most common conditions for which people approach homeopathy.

The public has excellent awareness and tremendous faith in homeopathy for treating various acute and chronic health problems. Homeopathy treats the body, mind, and emotions as a whole and treats the individual, not just the disease. The primary approach is a diagnosis based on a complete history of the patient’s illness and an understanding of the patient’s temperament, personality, lifestyle, and food habits.

Based on this holistic principle, each patient is considered a unique individual. Therefore, the remedies are selected to fit a patient’s physical and mental aspects for stimulating the body’s healing power from within.

Homeopathic medicines also help in the prevention of diseases and the promotion of health. Recent clinical trials suggest that homeopathic medicines positively affect allergic rhinitis, fibrositis, and influenza. Homeopathy treats conditions ranging from headaches, fevers, stress, arthritis, maternal and pediatric problems, eczema, etc. Homeopathic medicines are used as a standalone treatment or as an adjunct with medicines of other systems for various clinical conditions.  

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Homeopathic Practice in Indian Healthcare

Homoeopathy was first introduced in India when some German missionaries and physicians began distributing German homeopathic medicines amongst local inhabitants during their mission. But it became popular in 1839 when Dr. John Martin Honigberger successfully treated Maharaja Ranjit Singh for the paralysis of Vocal Cords. As a result, Dr. Honigberger settled in Calcutta and became popularly called a Cholera-doctor. Following him, Dr. M.L. Sirkar, a reputed Physician, also started practicing Homoeopathy. He edited the first Homoeopathic Journal, ‘The Calcutta Journal of Medicine,’ in 1868. In 1881, many famous allopathic physicians, like Dr. P.C. Mujumdar, Dr. D. N. Roy, etc., established the first homeopathic medical college, the ‘Calcutta Homoeopathic Medical College.’ Also, Dr. Lahiri, Dr. B. K. Sarkar, and many others were impressed by Homeopathy and started establishing Homoeopathy as their profession. It all happened in West Bengal, but this contributed to the spread and development of homeopathy throughout India. 

It led to an increase in the number of amateur homeopathic practitioners. Consequently, the Government had to streamline the system as such practitioners needed recognition. Hence in 1937, the Central Legislative Assembly resolved to introduce Homoeopathy in government hospitals and give homeopathic colleges the same status and credit as in the case of allopathic colleges in India.

In 1948, the same Assembly passed another resolution on Homoeopathy, followed by the formation of the Homoeopathic Enquiry Committee. In 1949, this committee submitted its report recommending establishing a Central Homoeopathic Council. Later in 1952, a Homoeopathic Adhoc Committee was formed, which was changed to Homoeopathic Advisory Committee’ in 1954. Its function was to advise the Government on all matters related to Homoeopathy, such as homeopathic education, research, regulation of practice, Indian homeopathic pharmacopeia, drug manufacture, financial aid to homeopathic institutions, government dispensaries, and hospitals, along with the cooperation of International Homoeopathic Medical League. Finally, in 1973, the Parliament passed the Homoeopathy Central Council Act regulating homeopathic education and practice in the country. 

In the present scenario, homeopathy is essential to India’s multiple healthcare systems. The Indian Government has made sustained efforts for its growth and development along with other Indian systems of medicines, including Ayurveda, Yoga, Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, and Sowa Rigpa, which are collectively called by the acronym Ayush. Homoeopathy has been established at the Centre and in all the state health systems. About 195 undergraduate and 43 postgraduate homeopathic medical colleges have a regulatory mechanism for quality university education and an autonomous research council with 22 institutes and units. Also, with around 2,83,840 registered homeopathic practitioners, drug safety regulations with 403 drug manufacturing units produce a huge homeopathic medicine list in India.

Homeopathy in the Indian healthcare system

Ayush services are included in the country’s healthcare delivery system at every level of primary, secondary, and tertiary healthcare centers. The Government of India has developed several programs and initiatives to increase coverage and promote Ayush systems in the country. These regulations ensure that the quality of healthcare is maintained and allows the patients to opt for the treatment they choose. 

Homeopathic healthcare services are provided by 235 hospitals and 8117 dispensaries run by state governments, municipal bodies, Central Government Health Scheme, the labor ministry, and the railway ministry. One of the main strategies in the National Rural Health Mission is to integrate the Indian system of medicines and Homoeopathy to facilitate healthcare throughout these centers. Under NRHM, Ayush facilities were established in 512 district hospitals, 2739 community health centers, and 9112 primary health centers in 2015. “Ayush Wellness Centre” was inaugurated by former President of India, Dr. Pranab Mukherjee, on 25th July 2015 at the President’s Estate, New Delhi.

Growth of Homeopathy in India

Since the last two decades, there has been a sustained focus and initiatives taken by the Govt of India to enhance the quality of homeopathic health services, with ambitions to upgrade education, higher studies, research, drug development, and proper healthcare delivery and regulation of the system. As a result, the teaching and training in Homeopathy in India are at par with other medical systems. Registration with the State or Central Register of Homeopathy is legally essential to practice Homeopathy in India.  

With a well-qualified human resource and homeopathic infrastructure India is considered the world leader in Homeopathy. There is a demand for well-qualified practitioners and teachers in several countries. Online homeopathic treatment, the availability of online homeopathic medicines, and webinars have created good opportunities and career prospects for young doctors. Safety of the medication, an easy-to-administer form of drugs even for infants, and low cost, along with the strong support and regulations from Ayush, are some of the positive aspects of Homeopathy. 

Now the Department of Ayush evolved into the Ministry of Ayush. The Ayush services were added within the existing PHCs and government dispensaries to ensure accessibility and availability of healthcare services to all. The health ministry started mainstreaming the Ayush system with strict monitoring. 

In the recent National AyushMission, many strategies and plans were included, such as multidimensional mainstreaming, nurturing infrastructural facilities of Ayush medical institutions, increasing the production of Ayush medicines, improving standardization and quality control of drugs, capability building of professionals, increasing research and public health skills and initiating community-based awareness on preventive and promotive health care.

Several studies support the positive effects of homeopathy on common health problems reported at primary health centers, such as headaches, acute otitis media, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children, respiratory tract and ear infections, allergies, etc.

One survey noted that using homeopathic medicines has potential public health benefits such as reduced usage of antibiotics and steroids, reduced treatment cost, and general health improvement in chronically ill patients.

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These health benefits have warranted further research on this modality and targeted studies of users. The global profile of TCAM has shown Homoeopathy as the most popular medical system in high-income countries and the second most popular in low-income countries.

India also has the advantage of effective institutionalization of Homoeopathy, with around 195 colleges imparting graduate degrees in Homoeopathy and higher educational qualifications, including postgraduation and Ph.D. 

Homeopathic healthcare is provided by around 6812 dispensaries and 215 hospitals of state governments and municipalities, 35 central government dispensaries, 39 labor ministry dispensaries, and 129 centers of the railway ministry. Nowadays, it is further made more accessible and more effective through online homeopathic treatment and the availability of online medicine purchases in India. In addition, the vast experience of Homoeopathy practitioners of India, with a considerable patient following and government support for Homoeopathy at the PHC level, makes India an ideal model for regulating and using the homeopathic health system in other countries.

The present global scenario of Homeopathy

Homoeopathy is currently used in many countries. It has been legalized as an individual medical system in 42 countries and as complementary and alternative medicine in 28 countries.  

It is also popular in European countries. Of them, 29 percent use it for health care. Studies have identified Homoeopathy as the most used CAM therapy for children in European countries. The National Health Interview Survey 2007 showed that 3.9 million adults and 910,000 children in North America use Homeopathy.

The system is practiced in over 85 countries, especially Europe, Latin America, and Asia. In the United States, the homeopathic drug market is a multimillion-dollar industry. Homeopathic remedies are made from plant, animal products, minerals, or inert materials. The manufacturing of Homeopathic medicines is recognized and regulated by the Drugs and Cosmetic Act of 1940 and the Drugs and Cosmetic Rule of 1945. The medicines are manufactured by established pharmaceutical companies under strict Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) notified by the Government. In addition, Homeopathy is recognized as one of the National systems of medicine through the Homeopathy Central Council Act of 1973.  

It is relevant to mention here that although many countries ban Homeopathy, governments in many other countries do recommend or at least support the use of Homoeopathy by its people. Homoeopathy has even official status in many countries. It has also been officially recognized as a medical system in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Mexico, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Belgium, Bulgaria, Hungary, Lithuania, Portugal, Romania, Russia, the United Kingdom, etc. In some countries, namely Brazil, India, Mexico, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and the United Kingdom, Homoeopathy has been integrated into the national healthcare systems. In India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, the legal status of Homoeopathy is equivalent to that of conventional medicine. Many people are interested in homeopathy and are certified in both Homoeopathy and allopathic medicine.

Need for an integrative system of medicine.

Homoeopathy can potentially improve a person’s health at a lower cost by a safer means. In addition, its integration into national health systems allows patients to have a choice for patients with chronic illnesses and acute medical conditions. 

As technology becomes more innovative, clinical and scientific evidence for Homoeopathy is being explored through innovative experiments and studies. It has provided satisfactory results that answer the long-time debate about the placebo effect, frequently used to criticize Homoeopathy research.

To incorporate Homoeopathy into the mainstream health system worldwide, we need universal access, fair financial help for research, quality care, and cost-effective use of the results of relevant studies. 

Ways to promote homeopathy

  • Promote homeopathy through medical camps and health check-ups, distributing information, education, communication materials, handouts, etc.
  • Educate by expanding the knowledge base of practitioners. Providing critical evaluation and training in Homoeopathy in university education during continuing medical education 
  • Research to build a broad evidence base as the main challenge Homeopathy faces is less scientific evidence supporting its efficacy and mode of action. 
  • Develop and integrate necessary policies and programs to enable the choice of services for patients. 
  • Integrating Homoeopathy in various national healthcare programs such as the National Programme for Prevention and Control of Cancer, Cardiovascular Diseases, Diabetes, Stroke, Healthy child, and the Swasthya Rakshan Programme can help promote Homeopathy.
  • Cooperation and information sharing must be encouraged between conventional healthcare professionals and Homoeopathy practitioners. In addition, various collaborative studies must be carried out and reported to showcase the credibility of integrated medicine.
  • One of the ways is a humane way of treating the patients to improve the patient-doctor rapport, promoting a change in the perception of illness and the healthcare system, etc.

Conclusion

The above points clearly show that appropriate integration of Homoeopathy in primary healthcare along with conventional medicine leads to patients’ recovery safely and cost-effectively, provides patient satisfaction, and reduces the burden of the conventional health system. It has also been advocated by Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO, who stated that the two systems need not clash and, on the contrary, within the context of PHC, they can blend in a beneficial harmony, using the best features of each system and compensating for specific weaknesses in each. It is a long way to go, but it is not impossible. If proper guidelines and efforts are made, it can be implemented successfully.

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