The VHL on Traditional, Complementary and Integrative Medicine, a collective achievement

The initiative to create a regional Virtual Health Library (VHL) on Traditional, Complementary and Integrative (TCI) Medicine emerged as a response of the Latin American and Caribbean Center on Health Sciences Information (BIREME/PAHO/WHO) to meet the expressed demand of many countries to improve availability of and access to relevant scientific and technical information on this matter. The effort started in the PAHO Representation in Nicaragua, when BIREME was asked to provide a digital solution to the information requirements of the Instituto de Medicina Natural y Terapias Complementarias (IMNTC) – Ministry of Health of Nicaragua, and its branches throughout the country.

In December 2015, BIREME took part in a workshop to strengthen capacities in research in TCI Medicine for professionals of the IMNTC and its branches.  During this meeting, and some months later, possible solutions were identified for the information requirements.  The VHL model developed by BIREME was the star that guided the path. The project continued to grow and could take shape thanks to the financial support given by PAHO Office in Nicaragua, and by the project “Integrated Health Systems in Latin American and Caribbean”, from the Canadian Government and PAHO, by means of an inter-program initiative.

The project was presented during the Regional Meeting “Advancing Towards Universal Health, Contributions of Traditional and Complementary Medicine”, held in Managua, Nicaragua, on June 6-8, 2017. From then on, it took off.

The meeting was attended by delegates from 21 countries in the Region, from Ministries of Health, academic organizations, integrating agencies, representatives of indigenous and Afro-American descendent populations. The participants shared their experience on how to integrate TCI Medicine to the national health systems, revising the policies on integration to systems and services, regulatory aspects, and knowledge and research management.

During this meeting, a group of delegates gathered their wishes to make a TCI Medicine Regional Network, which took the management of the VHL TCI Medicine, as agreed with BIREME.  The network initiative, so far comprising organizations from 13 countries, is the result of purposes and collective effort of those working in TCI Medicine-related activities, such as professional capacity building, development of policies and regulation, promotion, research development and services rendering. The members have been working together online, through virtual meetings and sharing common work tools, to develop the content of the VHL TCI Medicine Portal and to manage it. BIREME acts as an integrating and facilitating agent of this Network.

The VHL TCI Medicine aims to promote visibility, access, use and generation of scientific, technical and educational contents, which contribute to actions that support, develop and integrate the TCI Medicine with health services and systems in the Region of the Americas, besides networking collaboration.

The project VHL TCI Medicine for the Americas and the Regional Network have drawn attention from relevant international references; the recent editorial of The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine stood out and is entitled “Articulated Medicine: Pan American Health Organization Reengages Traditional and Complementary Medicine Efforts”.

Dr. Carissa Etienne, PAHO Director, and Dr. Diego González, BIREME Director, will be in charge of the official launching of the VHL TCI Medicine for the Americas, during the 1st International Conference on Integrative and Complementary Practices and Public Health, to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on March 12-15, 2018.

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