The Lancet: WHO's new vision for traditional medicine (10)

22 September, 2023

Neil asks "whether governments should provide support for treatments with questionable effectiveness". As I wrote in my book “Traditional medicine in the WHO South-East Asia Region: Review of progress 2014–2019” ( ) “according to WHO’s recent Global Report on traditional and complementary medicine 2019, based on current information, 88% of Member States of WHO have acknowledged their use of traditional & complementary medicine (T&CM), which corresponds to about 170 Member States. These are the countries that have, for example, formally developed policies, laws, regulations, programmes and offices for T&CM, and the actual number of countries using T&CM is likely to be even higher. Canada, France, Germany and Italy … report that between 70% and 90% of their populations have used traditional medicines under the titles ‘complementary’, ‘alternative’, or ‘nonconventional’.  

Thus, more broadly, Neil’s question, “whether governments should provide support for treatments with questionable effectiveness” needs to be asked about all treatments, whether T&CM or allopathic – and in virtually every country in the world. [*see note below]

We have seen quite recently that the allopathic world is very capable of making egregious mistakes in recommended treatments – the use of chloroquine against COVID-19, for example – where all the academic strings were pulled, scholarly papers and the like – before the idea withered on the vine. As the New England Journal of Medicine put it, reviewing the chloroquine story  (, ... it would appear that to some extent the media and social forces — rather than medical evidence — are driving clinical decisions and the global Covid-19 research agenda.

We seem to be caught in between traditional medicine that has not been sufficiently scientifically tested, and allopathic medicine that is particularly subject to infodemic misinformation.


HIFA profile: Chris Zielinski: As a Visiting Fellow and Lecturer at the Centre for Global Health, University of Winchester, Chris leads the Partnerships in Health Information (Phi) programme, which supports knowledge development and brokers healthcare information exchanges of all kinds. He is the elected Vice President (and President-in-Waiting) of the World Association of Medical Editors. Chris has held senior positions in publishing and knowledge management with WHO in Brazzaville, Geneva, Cairo and New Delhi, with FAO in Rome, ILO in Geneva, and UNIDO in Vienna. He served on WHO's Ethical Review Committee, and was an originator of the African Health Observatory. He also spent three years in London as Chief Executive of the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society. Chris has been a director of the UK Copyright Licensing Agency, Educational Recording Agency, and International Association of Audiovisual Writers and Directors. He has served on the boards of several NGOs and ethics groupings (information and computer ethics and bioethics). chris AT His publications are at and and his blogs are and

[*Note from HIFA moderator (NPW): Yes I agree strongly. My question, “whether governments should provide support for treatments with questionable effectiveness”, relates to *any* treatment. There are plenty of examples of treatments with questionable effectiveness in allopathic medicine.]