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Washington, D.C., 8 May 2018 (PAHO / WHO) - The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) reaffirmed the importance of integrating traditional and complementary medicine (T&CM) services into national health systems in the region of the Americas.

"Traditional and complementary medicine of proven quality, safety, and efficacy, contributes to the goal of ensuring that all people have access to care" said Anna Coates, Chief of the Office of Equity, Gender, and Cultural Diversity, PAHO, during the opening remarks of the symposium "T&CM in Primary Health Care; 40 years after Alma-Ata", which took place on May 8, 2018, in Washington DC. PAHO´s Strategy for Universal Health states that respect for traditional medicine continues to present challenges for most of the countries of the Region, affecting quality of care.

"The incorporation of the discussion of T&CM into the processes of transformation and strengthening of health systems and services is essential to address a comprehensive care centered on people and communities in primary health care", said Hernán Luque, PAHO Regional Health Services Advisor, and the panel´s moderator.

PAHO´s Policy on Ethnicity and Health, approved in 2017, calls upon Member States to recognize that promoting access to quality health services means ensuring that health models, systems and services adopt intercultural perspectives, including the ancestral and spiritual knowledge and practices of indigenous peoples, Afro-descendants, Roma and members of other ethnic groups.

"Respect and incorporation of traditional medicine is a central component of intercultural approaches to health, which are a key strategy in overcoming ethnic inequities in health within a rights based framework", said Coates.

During the event, speakers examined the role of T&CM in primary health care, in the context of the 40th anniversary of the Alma-Ata Declaration, the PAHO Universal Health Strategy, and the WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy 2014-2023.

The agenda included presentations on:

- The Role of Integrative and Complementary Practices in Primary Health Care in Brazil, Daniel Miele Amado, National Coordinator, Integrative and Complementary Practices in Health, Ministry of Health of Brazil.

- The Importance of Traditional Medicine for the Ethnic Diversity of the Americas, Vivian Camacho, Indigenous rights activist, member of PAHO´s High Level Commission for the 40th anniversary of Alma-Ata.

- Integrative Health Competencies for Primary Health Care Professionals, Benjamin Kligler, National Director, Integrative Health Coordinating Center, Office of Patient-Centered Care & Cultural Transformation, Veterans Health Administration; Chair, Interprofessional Leadership Team, National Center for Integrative Primary Health Care.

- Virtual Health Library in Traditional, Complementary, and Integrative Medicine for the Americas: information, collaboration and inclusion to advance towards Universal Health, Veronica Abdala, Manager of Cooperative Information Services and Production of Information Sources, PAHO/BIREME.

Diego Gonzalez, PAHO/BIREME´s Director, highlighted the importance of the T&CM specialized Virtual Health Library presented, (http://mtci.bvsalud.org/), as an institutional response to the expressed need from Member States to have access to relevant information for decision making, and to foster collaboration on this area.