New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government, under its new National Education Policy (NEP) released Wednesday, plans to integrate modern medicine with the traditional systems of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, and Homoeopathy (AYUSH).
But the plan has drawn mixed reactions from experts, with AYUSH practitioners welcoming it, and allopaths terming it a move that will “produce official quacks”.
The NEP, accessed by ThePrint, states: “Given that people exercise pluralistic choices in healthcare, our healthcare education system must be integrative meaning thereby that all students of allopathic medical education must have a basic understanding of AYUSH and vice versa.”
The NEP states that healthcare education needs to be “re-envisioned”. The objective, it explains, is “that the duration, structure, and design of the educational programmes need to match the role requirements that graduates will play”.
“Students will be assessed at regular intervals on well-defined parameters primarily required for working in primary care and in secondary hospitals,” it says. “There shall also be a much greater emphasis on preventive healthcare and community medicine in all forms of healthcare education.”
AYUSH experts say it’ll help allopaths
On the flip side, Ayurveda experts said the move would boost the confidence of modern science doctors in traditional systems of medicine.
“It’s a welcome move. Our students already have to clear the examination on pathology, pharmacology, anatomy and physiology, which give a basic understanding of modern medicine. But this move will be useful for students studying allopathy,” said Dr Pradeep Prajapati, professor at the All India Institute of Ayurveda (AIIA), the apex institute for studying and researching the ancient Indian system of medicine.
“These students should know about our system so they get confidence about our system, which is usually kept under doubt,” he added.
Anil Khurana, director general of the Central Council for Research in Homoeopathy (CCRH), a central government-run institute, said: “The move will further facilitate the integration of AYUSH systems at various levels of treatment at primary, secondary and, most importantly, in tertiary care, as is being observed in the management of Covid-19, where homoeopathy is being evaluated in allopathic hospitals.”
Dr M.A. Qasmi, joint adviser (Unani) with the Ministry of AYUSH, added: “It is a good initiative and it will have a great positive impact on healthcare sector. Having basic knowledge of other medicinal systems will give medical students greater understanding on preventive healthcare and community medicine”
‘Wrong policy decision’
Dr R.V. Asokan, secretary general of the doctors’ lobby Indian Medial Association told ThePrint, “When the NEP was being discussed six months ago, we had raised concerns about this point. But they have finally made it official.
“How can we think of making a doctor a ‘jack of all trades’ and do experiments on patients? We must not intend to produce hybrid doctors as it will eventually produce official quacks.”
Asokan added that it was the “wrong policy decision”, and that the IMA is thinking of resending its concerns to the government.
“The move will sound death knell for modern medicine and will create hybrid doctors. These doctors, on paper, may create quantity but will lack in quality. It will also be detrimental to our traditional Ayush systems as they will be subsumed in other systems, losing their own identity,” said Dr Ravi Wankhedkar, former president of the SAARC Medical Association and the IMA.
Other health experts cautioned that even if integration takes place, it has to be based on evidence-based science, experts caution, else there would be a grave mismatch.
Anant Bhan, a researcher in global health, bioethics and health policy and former president of International Association of Bioethics, said, “While pluralistic healthcare with integrative medicine (Allopathy-AYUSH) can be a positive for patients, it must build on evidence and engagement which is based on science and best interests of patients.”
Bhan, who is also adjunct professor and researcher in bioethics at Mangaluru’s Yenepoya University, added: “Competency based assessments, and a focus on creating professionals who can work in primary and secondary healthcare settings will require re-designing current health professional education models which often focus on tertiary healthcare settings.”
A high-ranking government official, who is also a member of the Medical Council of India (MCI), said the move is inappropriate and needs correction.
“We are not against Ayurveda, but mixing the education of two systems could be dangerous. There is no basic connection, then why confuse the doctors and decimate the quality of their education?” the official said.