Health, Biodiversity & Traditional Knowledge – Strengthening Policy-Practice Linkages for Community Health
Seminar by Unnikrishnan Payyappallimana, UNU-IAS Postdoctoral Fellow, UNU-IAS Yokohama

The health sector faces a paradox with the coexistence of immense advances in wellbeing in certain regions, extreme deprivation in others and increasing socioeconomic disparities in general. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one third of the global population has no regular access to essential modern medicine; and in parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America, as high as half of the population faces shortage of minimum healthcare. Existing burden of communicable diseases coupled with rapidly emerging chronic and lifestyle diseases persistently affect lives in these regions. Developed countries are also confronted by a changing demography, chronic and lifestyle-related diseases, low fertility, dependence on high technology-centered healthcare and related escalating costs. Health planners are confronted with the dual challenges of integrating health promotion and disease prevention on the one hand, and treatment of acute illnesses and chronic care on the other. This has prompted a rethink in strategies from institutionally delivered health care to health access for improved health and wellbeing among populations.

Traditional medicine continues to play a key role in sustainable health care development in various regions and is an important component in achieving wellbeing and the realization of equitable health objectives. Essentially, there are three broad processes through which health access through traditional medicine is promoted: a health-focused approach which is state driven; a community-based conservation, health and livelihood approach; and a market-driven approach providing health supplements, products and services. Synergizing policy attention on various nodes that provide health – resources, various practices and governance measures is still less emphasized. Most of the studies on biodiversity resources and health linkages are in the context of modern pharmaceuticals and only a few focus on a community health perspective. This presentation seeks to summarize and highlight the health and biodiversity linkages, while focusing on the need for education and participatory methods of capacity development for planning towards various development objectives in a community health context. Read the summary … View the video of the presentation …