Development of the WHO Global Library of Traditional Medicine is being coordinated by BIREME – PAHO/WHO

São Paulo, April 30, 2024 – From March 19 to 22, 2024, the Latin American and Caribbean Center for Health Sciences Information of the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (BIREME/PAHO/WHO) was in India to participate in two meetings organized by WHO, in New Delhi and Jamnagar, to plan the activities of the new Global Center for Traditional Medicine (GTMC/WHO) in the 2024-2025 biennium.

The meetings brought together experts and technicians from more than 40 countries from the six WHO regions, including researchers, policymakers, health service providers, representatives of civil society organizations and WHO officials. João Paulo Souza, director of BIREME, Verônica Abdala, manager of Information Products and Services of BIREME, and Jonas Gonseth-Garcia, advisor on Quality of Health Systems and Services (HSS), participated from PAHO.

The work agenda covered the main areas of activity of the WHO Global Center for Traditional Medicine, highlighting the development of the knowledge and evidence base on traditional medicines (including research priorities and the Global Library of Traditional Medicine, the introduction of safe, effective and culturally appropriate traditional practices in national health systems, the recording and evaluation of the use of these practices in health services (with emphasis on the traditional medicine chapter of ICD-11), biodiversity and intellectual property, as well as the WHO’s own global strategy for Traditional Medicine.

Regarding the Global Library, Verônica Abdala shared that the discussions “permeated two days of work, with general conferences held in the morning, working groups in the afternoon, ending each day with plenary discussions.” Under the coordination of BIREME, three focus group sessions were held with participants to define high-level specifications, such as the needs of potential users of the global information platform. Verônica Abdala explained that some name options were presented to the participants, which were debated, and “Global Library of Traditional Medicine” was chosen. With this, “we are going to build and implement a platform to gather, organize and give visibility to knowledge and evidence related to traditional health practices that exist in the various WHO regions and their countries. The purpose is that this library can facilitate access to information and, in some way, subsidize global decision-making on the subject,” she stated.

Verônica Abdala, Manager of Information Products and Services at BIREME, in a working group during the WHO Global Technical Meeting on Traditional Medicine, in New Delhi, India.

João Paulo Souza, director of BIREME, also present at the mission, highlighted the importance of libraries in this context, “because there is a heritage of traditional knowledge in our countries that is being lost. This traditional knowledge is translated into practices based on natural resources originating from the rich biodiversity of our different biomes and ecosystems. Thus, the loss of this knowledge not only limits the potential for economic and social development of indigenous, peasant, riverine and forest communities, but also means a delay in the scientific and technological development of therapeutic resources. Keep in mind that a significant portion, if not most, of currently available medicines originate from natural resources, and traditional knowledge illuminates the way to identify new therapeutic resources.”

For the director, “it is very gratifying to see BIREME put its experience at the service of a global health project with interfaces in several sectors, including culture and ethnicity, intellectual property, ecology, science and technology and economy, among others.” João Paulo Souza understands that although entrusting this project to BIREME represents a great challenge, it also represents its recognition as a center of excellence in the development of digital libraries. “The Virtual Health Library on Traditional, Complementary and Integrative Medicines (VHL TCIM) was presented at the WHO World Summit on Traditional Medicine, held in India in August 2023, and has influenced this new WHO project. “People understand that this is a proposal that has been in the making for a long time, with a very extensive network and team behind it,” he said.

Librarian Rose Pinto remembers with satisfaction the activities that led to the creation of the VHL MTCI Americas. “It is very good to see this project underway, remembering that, although the practices have existed for a long time, it was not 10 years ago that a movement began to articulate the knowledge and practitioners of traditional medicines in the Americas. And now, seeing all this construction and all the potential benefits that this project has, gives us a lot of joy,” says Rose, remembering the meetings held by PAHO in Nicaragua, in December 2015 and in July 2017, when the original project of the VHL MTCI. “I believe that it is a purpose of humanity to grow in this sense of integrating different types of knowledge, with an effective methodology to make this information available to more people,” Rose concludes.

The Global Library development schedule foresees a preliminary version available for testing in 2024, with the launch of the new information product in 2025, in connection with the 2nd WHO World Summit on Traditional Medicines.

More details about the mission to India and the project of the new WHO Global Library of Traditional Medicine can be found in the interview with the director of BIREME, João Paulo Souza. Click on: VHL MTCI Americas will be a model for the development of the future WHO Global Library of Traditional Medicine.

Director João Paulo Souza and Verônica Abdala, from BIREME/PAHO/WHO, with Dr. Ricardo Ghelman, Vice President of CABSIN – Brazilian Academic Consortium for Integrative Health, during the WHO Global Technical Meeting on Traditional Medicine.
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