Integrated Holistic Health: Inaugural meeting of the C20 working group

Global Health has been an integral working group in past Civil 20 summits, reflecting the healthcare issues of the day. With the world exiting a pandemic, this year’s C20 Integrated Holistic Health (IHH) working group is focusing upon how COVID-19 starkly emphasised existing inequities, inequalities, and the limitations of our existing healthcare systems and what we can do as a collective to bridge these gaps. Members of IHH were inspired to have more than 1800 participants from 51 countries, including 22 states across India, take part in the inauguration, which happened virtually on February 19th. 

With this resolve to finding solutions, IHH is addressing ways to reinforce global healthcare systems through seven subgroups: mental healthnutritionwomen’s and children’s healthelderly and palliative careholistic health that includes traditional medicine like Ayurveda, non-communicable diseases, and One Health – examining infectious diseases and acknowledging the interdependence of human, animal, and environmental health. 

The ceremony itself was inaugurated by Amb. Vijay Nambiar, Principal Coordinator, C20 along with Vaidya. Rajesh Kotecha, Secretary, AYUSH Ministry, Government of India. AYUSH is an acronym for medical systems practised in India that include Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, and Homeopathy. Shri Kotecha released IHH’s video that outlines the working group’s focus areas. 

In Shri Kotecha’s address, he shared that IHH’s vision directly pertains to the AYUSH Ministry’s work to regulate and promote the growth and development of traditional health care systems in India.  

“During the pandemic, we worked hard hand-in-hand with biomedical health systems to ensure that people got pragmatic health advisories for self-care by using simple, yet very effective scientifically validated household remedies for prevention of infection, recovery from the infection, and reduced hospital stay.  

“We also promoted performing yoga and meditation in quarantine for self-preservation and maintaining mental well-being. During this process many civil service organisations have participated with great synergy,” said Shri Kotecha.  

He emphasised how governments, CSOs, and other stakeholders are working together to achieve a new paradigm in healthcare that expands from just treating illness to integrating overall wellness and prevention. From a global perspective, this includes addressing issues such as the mitigation of hunger and conflict, alongside supporting socio-economic development. 

“The AYUSH medical system in India and traditional medical systems from different parts of the world are here to put in all the efforts for integrative holistic health through evidence-based practices and to ensure that we all together achieve One World, One Health,” he said. 

Swami Amritaswarupananda Puri addressed the gathering as a Member of Troika – Civil 20 India and as Vice-Chair of the Mata Amritanandamayi Math. He spoke about how the word health evolved from “hal” which conveyed three separate meanings: healthy, whole, and holy. But the expressions became three separate words in the English language.  

He continued that as we witness today’s increase in natural disasters and global conflicts, humanity has reached a dire need to reintegrate these three concepts through the approach of holistic health. This means working from three perspectives: individual health, community health, and the health of our natural world. To achieve this, we must combine traditional health systems with modern medicine and create a balance between scientific research and ancient knowledge imparted by the Great Sages.  

“We have to accept the fact that modern medicine also has its limitations. While it has made remarkable changes in transforming the area of health, it’s not infallible. What modern medicine cannot accomplish traditional treatments can and vice versa,” said Swamiji.  

“Allopathic and traditional medicine doctors do not accept each other, they scough at each other. It’s high time that they change their attitudes and learn to understand the significance of both systems, especially with the fatal threats that our planet is facing.  

“There was a time when a huge section of society disregarded climate change. They thought it was a myth, but now when the truth is tearing at humanity, they cannot but accept the fact that climate change did happen.” 

Swamiji also inaugurated the Chaupal Portal – #YouAreTheLight which provides members of the global community with an opportunity to share their experiences and suggestions in the field of public health. It is a platform for all to express their understanding of the challenges we face and suggest solutions that IHH can take to the G20 leaders.  

Members of IHH’s international advisory committee include Dr. Andy Carmone, Director, Clinton Health Access Initiative and Indigenous Health Solutions; Dr. Krish Ramachandran, Associate Professor, Anaesthesia, Harvard Medical School; and Dr. Sarthak Das, CEO, Asia Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance. These distinguished members outlined the plans for and structure of the working group along with the national leads, Dr. Jaideep C Menon and Dr. Priya Nair with Amrita Hospitals, Kochi.  

The event was also honoured to have an eminent group of speakers share their thoughts and insights including: Lady Roslyn Morauta, Vice-Chair, Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, & Malaria, Former First Lady of Papua New Guinea, and with The Global Fund Board of Directors; K Vijayaraghavan, Former Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India; Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, Former Scientific Advisor, World Health Organisation (WHO); Dr. Bernadette Abela Ridder, Lead for NCDs- WHO; Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director for South-East Asia, WHO; Gorgui Diallo, CEO, Panafricare; Muhammed Abdul Faiz, Former Director of Medical Education and Training, Government of Bangladesh; and Dr. MKC Nair, Director, KUHAS. 

Furthermore, IHH was fortunate to be joined by representatives from other G20 working groups: Narender Mehra with Science 20 (S20) and Ex Dean, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS); Professor Sachin Chaturvedi with Think 20 (T20) and Director General at the Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS); and Rajiv Vasudevan with Business 20 (B20) and CEO, AyurVaid Hospitals. All shared their valuable insights as to how the various engagement groups can most effectively work together towards our common vision.  

It was certainly a heartening sight to behold a total of 1800 people from 51 countries in attendance. These countries included Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Hong Kong SAR, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Kuwait, Laos, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Myanmar, New Zealand, Nigeria, Niger, North Macedonia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Portugal, Russia, Senegal, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, and Uruguay. 

In a show of support, the Amrita University Healthcare Campuses in Kochi and Faridabad illuminated their statues of Shri Sushrutha with the G20 India colours to celebrate the inauguration. Shri Sushrutha was an ancient Indian physician, and the Sushruta Samhita (Sushruta’s Compendium), a treatise ascribed to him, is one of the most important surviving ancient treatises on medicine and is considered a foundational text of Ayurveda. 

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