During the last decade, the use of complementary medicine (CM, referred to as CAM in the document) has increased in both developing and developed countries, and also within the Lombardy Region of Italy. Globalization has led to intercultural exchanges and widespread use of techniques and therapeutic products of CM often unknown to local communities. This phenomenon requires particular attention in order to avoid inadequate misunderstandings and inappropriate use that could be harmful to the individuals and subsequently affect entire communities.
For this reason, the Regional Government of Lombardy is focusing on the important and strategic sector of consumer protection, which has been considered as one of the priorities in economic health care planning as outlined in the twenty objectives of the Government. This priority runs parallel to the most recent World Health Assembly Resolution on Traditional Medicine in 2003 which urged Member States of the World Health Organization to provide reliable information on traditional medicine (TM) and CM to consumers and providers in order to promote proper use. Therefore the Regional Government and the World Health Organization have established a four-year cooperation plan to develop technical guidelines and information on CM to help ensure the safety of consumers.
It is extremely important to create the conditions for the correct and appropriate use of CM methods which, if used correctly, can contribute to the protection and the enhancement of patients’ health and well being. One such condition is the need to make sure that consumers are better informed and aware of CM strategies and treatments so as to enable them to make appropriate decisions on how to improve their health.
With this in mind, the Regional Government of Lombardy supported the development of the WHO Guidelines on developing consumer information on proper use of traditional, complementary and alternative medicine by outlining how governments and relevant non-governmental organizations can empower consumers to become active participants in the therapeutic choices for health care in the field of CM. The process of development of these guidelines included the WHO Consultation Meeting held in Milan in December 2003, which brought together experts, national authorities and professional organizations from all over the world. One of the conclusions of the Consultation was that these guidelines were appropriate as a resource not only for the Lombardy Region, but also for various country situations worldwide.
The Regional Government of Lombardy has also outlined various issues in its regional management plans, one of which involves the importance of consumer associations as an important bridge between authorities and the community. At one level, consumer associations can interact directly with patients and operate within the community by contributing to activities for increasing consumer awareness of all forms of health care. At another level, such entities can communicate the needs of consumers to regional authorities in order to create adequate regional policies.
Only through such cooperation can the consumers become more aware of the possibilities and of the issues relating to the use of TM/CM in health care and therefore assume responsibility for their own health.
Regional Minister of Health
Regional Government of Lombardy
Regional Minister of Family and Social Solidarity
Regional Government of Lombardy