In the Beijing Declaration, the WHO devalues a human right for the poor by endorsing traditional medicine.
On November 8, 2008, the Beijing Declaration was announced by the World Health Organization (WHO) in Beijing, China, to promote the utilization of traditional medicine globally, especially in poor countries such as those in Asia and Africa.
Unfortunately, China is the only country that suggests employ traditional medicine for the poor’s primary health care, which is otherwise done by conventional medicine throughout the rest of the world. When I unveiled this fact, the people in China began suspecting their government. The people asked that if traditional Chinese medicine is compatible with conventional medicine, how come other countries refuse to recognize it?
Over the past sixty years, the Chinese government has been making the mistake of dual endorsement of conventional and traditional medicine. Now, in an attempt to cover up, the government calls for traditional Chinese medicine to join the rest of the world. With the help of the head of the WHO, Mrs. Chen, a Hong Kong native, the WHO announced the Beijing Declaration after a conference in Beijing in November 2008, which subscribed to the backwards situation in China.
In the Beijing Declaration, the WHO has impeded the development of a necessary human right. Mrs. Chen said, “Let me begin with the current reality, which on at least one level is quite straightforward. Traditional medicine is generally available, affordable, and commonly used in large parts of Africa, Asia, and Latin America… For many millions of people, often living in rural areas of developing countries, herbal medicines, traditional treatments, and traditional practitioners are the main – sometimes the only – source of health care.” It is a tragic mistake that the Beijing Declaration has primarily assigned traditional medicine for the poor; this is in contrast to the rich who are administered conventional medicine.
Our concern is the long-term plan of the government’s role in the Chinese health care system. In the 1950’s, the Chinese government suggested that the poor in rural areas use traditional medicine which sometimes meant only acupuncture plus a few herbal remedies. In the 1960’s and 1970s, the situation remained the same. Thirty years later, the Chinese government still enforces this anachronistic health care system- that is, a traditional Chinese medicine for the poor rather than endorsing conventional medicine. No one advocated for any improvement in the medical system or advanced current technology for the healthcare system in rural or poor areas. Why? It is simply because they believe that the poor should retain an inferior status.
I claim that it is a fundamental human right for the poor to have primary health care supplied by conventional medicine.
In 1949, the Chinese government became a dictatorship. While that situation has changed, the Chinese government has fallen incredibly short of legitimizing a comprehensive picture of human rights to their own people. Neither the officers nor the common people have a firm understanding of such basic rights. A few high-ranking Chinese officers declared publicly, “human rights in China means that we supply enough food to our people.” Thus, the Chinese government equates the welfare state in China to a pig farm.
But the Chinese have international role models. In the 1970s, a Bangladesh Professor Muhammad Yunus recognized a very important phenomena in the banking system. He found that lending a few dollars to the poorest may change their financial situation for the better- both for the individual as well as the nation. First, Professor Yunus lent 42 women from rural areas $27 U.S. dollars to buy material to manufacture bamboo chairs. Because these women did not have this capital, they were unable to start their own business. After Professor Yunus’s micro-loan, they were able to make bamboo chairs and sold them for profit. Later, these women returned the money and started their own life, independently controlling their financial situation and generating commerce in the locality. Professor Yunus called this “Microcredit Banking.” [Grameen Bank, 2009].
He started this with only $27 dollars. Ten years later, his microcredit banking has helped twelve million poor people in Bangladesh, ten percent of the population in the country. From this, one-third of customers have risen from financial debt. One-third has taken a step towards a stable financial situation. From 1997 to 2005, Yunus’ principles were promoted in the rest of the world. More than one hundred million poor families, including in the United States, have received assistance from micro loans.
Professor Yunus became a laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. Professor Yunus then announced one new principle in human rights: It is a fundamental human right that the poor attain loans from banks.
I have learn something from Professor Yunus.
Today, all countries in the world except China employ conventional medicine for the poor’s primary health care. We believe that now is the right time for the world’s poor to obtain better primary health care, supplied by conventional medicine instead of a very inefficient traditional medical regime. The WHO has raised this controversial issue to the world’s stage. We must fight against this mistreatment of China’s poor and the poor in the world.
Participants at the World Health Organization Congress on Traditional Medicine, meeting in Beijing this eighth day of November in the year two thousand and eight;
Recalling the International Conference on Primary Health Care at Alma Ata thirty years ago and noting that people have the right and duty to participate individually and collectively in the planning and implementation of their health care, which may include access to traditional medicine;
Recalling World Health Assembly resolutions promoting traditional medicine, including WHA resolution 56.31 of May 2003;
Noting that the term "traditional medicine" covers a wide variety of therapies and practices which may vary greatly from country to country and from region to region, and that traditional medicine may also be referred to as alternative or complementary medicine;
Recognizing traditional medicine as one of the resources of primary health care services to increase availability and affordability and to contribute to improve health outcomes including those mentioned in the Millennium Development Goals;
Recognizing that Member States have different domestic legislation, approaches, regulatory responsibilities and delivery models;
Noting that progress in the field of traditional medicine has been obtained in a number of Member States through implementation of the WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy 2002-2005;
Expressing the need for action and cooperation by the international community, governments, and health professionals and workers, to ensure proper use of traditional medicine as an important component contributing to the health of all people, in accordance with national capacity, priorities and relevant legislation;
In accordance with national capacities, priorities, relevant legislation and circumstances, hereby make the following Declaration:
I. The knowledge of traditional medicine, treatments and practices should be respected, preserved, promoted and communicated widely and appropriately based on the circumstances in each country.
II. Governments have a responsibility for the health of their people and should formulate national policies, regulations and standards, as part of comprehensive national health systems to ensure appropriate, safe and effective use of traditional medicine.
III. Recognizing the progress of many governments to date in integrating traditional medicine into their national health systems, we call on those who have not yet done so to take action.
IV. Traditional medicine should be further developed based on research and innovation in line with the "Global Strategy and Plan of Action on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property" adopted at the 61st World Health Assembly in 2008. Governments, international organizations and other stakeholders should collaborate in implementing the global strategy and plan of action.
V. Governments should establish systems for the qualification, accreditation or licensing of traditional medicine practitioners. Traditional medicine practitioners should upgrade their knowledge and skills based on national requirements.
VI. The communication between conventional and traditional medicine providers should be strengthened and appropriate training programmes be established for health professionals, medical students and relevant researchers.
Grameen Bank, http://www.grameen-info.org/. Accessed the 12th of Feb 2009.
Muhammad Yunus, Alan Jolis, 2007, Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty, Taipei (Chinese Version)
Beijing Declaration, WHO Congress on Traditional Medicine, Beijing, China, 8 November 2008 http://www.who.int/medicines/areas/traditional/congress/beijing_declaration/en/index.html, Accessed the 12th of Feb 2009.
Dr. William Wang received his PhD degree in China and has done research in the surgical field in the United States. In 2000, he finished his PMR residency training in Columbia University. Since 2006, he has put much effort into the fight against the practice of traditional medicine in China. He founded and is currently running the website yxpl.net which discusses the current situation of traditional medicine. Dr. Wang now practices in New York as a physiatrist.