Traditional and Complementary Medicine in Primary Health Care



World Health Organization

Publication Identity

World Health Organization


Traditional and complementary medicine (T&CM) is a health practice with strong historical and cultural roots, which has global acceptability and applicability (1). The health practices included under the umbrella term of T&CM can vary from country to country and from region to region. T&CM (2) is an important primary health care resource to many populations, and has been recognized as a component of achieving “health for all” since the Declaration of Alma-Ata in1978 (3).

WHO acknowledges the contribution of T&CM to health, wellness, people-centred health care and universal health coverage and seeks to bring traditional medicine “into the mainstream of health care, appropriately, effectively, and above all, safely” (1, 4, 5).

Since the 1970s, the integration of ‘proven’ traditional practices with national health systems has been advocated to improve primary care access and health outcomes through increasing the availability of services as an additional point of contact (6, 7, 8, 9). This acknowledges that, in some areas, traditional practitioners are the first contact and sometimes the only health providers available, and traditional herbal remedies are used for primary health care (10).

The role of T&CM practitioners in educating individuals, families, and communities on health promotion, disease prevention, public health issues, and appropriate care-seeking can also be capitalized on in the search for having healthier populations (11,12,13).
The importance of traditional practices in self-care is also highlighted in the UN General Assembly’s resolution on adopting 21 June as the International Day of Yoga which acknowledges yoga’s significance in “building better individual lifestyle” and for “the health of the world population”(14).