India should lead integrated healthcare efforts: IISF Plenary

New Delhi, Dec 5: Given its edge as an ancient country rich with traditional wellness systems, India should lead the medical world in its present-day efforts to mainstream alternative ways of treatment, a national seminar urged today.

The country has pre-Christian Era compendiums whose basic tenets meet with the highlights of modern medical manuals of the West, pointed out speakers at the ongoing India International Science Festival (IISF) here, stressing the need for exploring more about their synergic possibilities in modern times.

Sanskrit texts such as Charaka Samhita and Sushruta Samhita suggest means to lead a healthy life beyond ways to cure diseases—principles which are becoming increasingly relevant amid changing lifestyle marked by physical inactivity and mental stress, according to scholars at the first plenary session of the December 4-8 IISF being organised at IIT Delhi by the ministries of Science & Technology and Earth Sciences along with Vijnana Bharati and TIFAC.

Indian Council of Medical Research Director-General Soumya Swaminathan chaired the 80-minute session on ‘Preventive and Integrated Healthcare’ that was addressed by renowned cardiac surgeon M.S. Valiathan, leading scientist W. Selvamurthy and cancer researcher M. Radhakrishna Pillai.

Octogenarian Dr. Valiathan, who is a former president of Indian National Science Academy, recalled the observation that prompted a 17th-century military officer in Malabar with Dutch East India Company to bring out a treatise on medicinal plants of Kerala. Hendrick van Rheede, who was also a naturalist, noticed that his contemporary Malayalis remained healthy despite a lack in quality of their food—and traced the paradox to their healthy habit of consuming spices such as turmeric, coriander, ginger and pepper.

&ldquo This inspired him to learn more about the flora of southwest India,” the speaker said. Thus came out the classic ‘Hortus Malabaricus’ in 1678, making it the earliest comprehensive printed work on the plants of Asia and the tropics.

Dr Selvamurthy, a former chief controller (research and development) with DRDO under the Ministry of Defence, called for a networking of yoga centres across the country.

If sedentary routine, stress, disharmony between body and mind, pollution and infection are adding to spread of health issues like blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes, yoga is a cure of all these ailments, noted the speaker, who is currently the chancellor of Amity University.

Dr. Pillai, who is the director of Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology at Thiruvananthapuram, spoke of recent advances in developing vaccines for cervical cancer.

Earlier, in introductory speech, Ms Swaminathan emphasised the role of the Ministry of AYUSH in integrating India’s traditional medicines with allopathy.

This is all the more necessary in the coming years, as India is witnessing an increasingly urbanising India is witnessing a rise in cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases, she added.

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