National policies are the basis for defining the role of traditional and complementary/alternative medicine in national health care programmes, ensuring that the necessary regulatory and legal mechanisms are created for promoting and maintaining good practice; assuring authenticity, safety and efficacy of traditional and complementary/alternative therapies; and providing equitable access to health care resources and information about those resources.
As seen in this review, national recognition and regulation of traditional and complementary/alternative medicine vary considerably. The World Health Organization works with countries to develop policies most appropriate for their situations. This document provides information on the legal status of traditional and complementary/alternative medicine in a number of countries. It is intended to facilitate the development of legal frameworks and the sharing of experiences between countries by introducing what some countries have done in terms of regulating traditional and complementary/alternative medicine. This information will be beneficial not only to policy-makers, but also to researchers, universities, the public, insurance companies and pharmaceutical industries.
The preparation of this document took almost 10 years, largely because of a lack of financial resources. Not only was it difficult to obtain accurate, precise information on the policies of all of the World Health Organization's 191 Member States, but because of the constant work of policy-makers on health-related issues, it was impossible for us to collect current data and keep it current throughout the preparation and publication process. Although we have worked tirelessly to collect data and keep it as up to date as possible, new policies have made some information included here obsolete and basic information for many countries is still lacking. Regrettably, we were only able to include 123 countries in this review. Some countries are not included as we were unable to find sufficient information and, for some countries that are included, we may have mistakenly provided inaccurate or misleading information. We deeply apologize for any omissions or errors.
In this regard, we would sincerely appreciate countries and organizations providing necessary corrections and keeping us updated as their policies change, so that our next edition of this important document will be as accurate and complete as possible.
Dr Xiaorui Zhang
World Health Organization