Contributions of the Traditional, Complementary and Integrative Medicines in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic

BIREME Bulletin n° 46
Posted in 2 August, 2020

The Traditional, Complementary and Integrative Medicines Network of the Americas (TCIM Americas Network) and the Brazilian Academic Consortium of Integrative Health (CABSIn in its Portuguese acronym), in coordination with BIREME, have been developing different products that seek to show the contribution of TCIM to the Covid-19 pandemic. One of these products is the Evidence Map, which identifies, analyzes and characterizes clinical studies on interventions based on TCIM (medicinal plants, homeopathy, acupuncture, traditional Chinese medicine, etc.) to improve the immune response, mental health in stress working conditions and social isolation, and the clinical management of COVID-19. About 20 TCIM specialists from Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Cuba and Mexico participated in this collaborative work[1].

Parallel to the process of preparing the evidence map, the team of researchers began the development of a window of knowledge on the contributions of TCIM in specific health issues and research initiatives, and articulation of TCIM in the context of the pandemic. Within health topics, the window of knowledge organizes information about the contributions of the TCIM in strengthening the immune system, mental health, spiritual health, occupational health and telework, self-care of health professionals, nutrition, oral health, and in complementary management of clinical symptoms of respiratory viral infections. Additionally, the initiatives by and for indigenous peoples, Afro-descendants and other ethnic groups in the Americas are being registered. The Window of Knowledge is available at the TCIM Americas VHL.

Within the framework of all the work carried out, it is worth highlighting two successful communication and exchange of experiences activities of the countries of the TCIM Americas Network.

The first one was the organization and promotion of the International Simposium on contributions of TCIM in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, with the collaboration of more than 50 volunteers from the TCIM Americas Network and CABSIn, with the support of the Committee of Traditional, Alternative and Complementary Medicine of the Medical College of Peru. The event was held on July 11, 2020, with the participation of 22 speakers from 12 countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, China, Cuba, USA, Guatemala, Mexico, Italy, and Peru.

The transmission was made simultaneously through the Zoom platform, the TCIM VHLYouTube channel in Spanish, and the CABSIn YouTube channel in Portuguese, with simultaneous interpretation into English, Spanish and Portuguese. More than 5,200 people signed up, and more than 20,000 accesses were registered throughout the 11 h of broadcasting of the event, with high interaction through platform chat and visits to the recorded content.

The experiences of several countries that used the preventive and therapeutic resources of the TCIM in the context of the pandemic were presented at the meeting. The use of traditional medicine for pandemic care in indigenous communities in contexts of traditional use was examined, as well as the interface of these plants with the latest research and clinical applications available for the symptoms of COVID-19 or the improvement of immunological condition and mental health. The integration of the TCIM with conventional health resources was also discussed, respecting the criteria of safety and efficacy in the different contexts, situating its contribution to the physical, mental and spiritual health of the individual.

The words of Daniel Gallego, one of the leaders of the TCIM Americas Network, portray very well the common sentiment of the Network with the holding of the Seminar: “Today is a new dawn for the TCIM Americas Network. Yesterday, this network gave birth to much more than a memorable event. With what we have witnessed, this network demonstrated that collectively it is possible to conceive ideas, nurture them, help them grow and strengthen, embellish them, and make them come true. We have a lot to offer our countries, our health systems, our peoples, our families. Together, we can accomplish things that would be unimaginable if we did them separately. This network has been taking root, growing, and even bearing the first fruits. We all need to care for, nurture, and strengthen this ‘little plant’, that rhizome that has already spread throughout the Americas and beyond.”

The second communication activity on the contributions of the TCIM to the confrontation of the COVID-19, was carried out on July 24 in the EIH Space, which is promoted by the PAHO/WHO Department of Evidence and Intelligence for Action in Health (EIH), to which BIREME takes part. The event had the opening words of the Director of the Department, Sebastián García, to give the framework and reinforce the importance of the subject, followed by Diego Gonzalez, director of BIREME and Verónica Abdala, Manager of Information Sources, who presented the actions of BIREME within the framework of the TCIM.

The editor-in-chief of the TCIM Americas VHL Network, Natalia Aldana, presented the collaborative work, actions and products of the TCIM Americas Network and the TCIM VHL Network, highlighting the International Symposium, the Evidence Map and the Window of Knowledge, all focused on COVID-19. To present the application of these products to the Brazilian context, Daniel Amado, from the Coordination of Integrative and Complementary Practices of the Ministry of Health, presented Brazil’s experience aligned to evidence informed health policies.

Dr. Socorro Gross, PAHO/WHO Representative in Brazil, as a special guest, made general comments on the subject highlighting the importance and contributions of the TCIM, considering that health and well-being is beyond the presence or absence of diseases. Addressing COVID-19, she added, requires an understanding of the different dimensions of health affected in the pandemic.

[1] Contributions of traditional, complementary and integrative medicine (TCIM) in the context of COVID-19. Available from: http://mtci.bvsalud.org/en/contributions-of-traditional-complementary-and-integrative-medicine-tcim-in-the-context-of-covid-19/

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