Transformative impact of Ayurveda and Yoga on healthcare and therapeutic wellness

Rajiv Vasudevan *

Over the last 10 years Ayurveda and Yoga sectors have seen a quantum leap in awareness, adoption, acceptance, and credibility amongst all stakeholders- consumers, insurance sector, policy makers, health professionals-in India and globally.

The transformation is in no small measure due to the concerted focus and perseverance of the Government of India over this period to promote Ayush systems of medicine as a mainstream, integrative, complementary system to the conventional system of medicine.

Lending concrete testimony to the Government of India’s results-oriented approach are the following facts:

i. The International Day of Yoga has been proclaimed by the United Nations & WHO since December 2014 and celebrated globally each year on 21st June since 2015.
ii. Setting up of a Global Centre for Traditional Medicine at Jamnagar in August 2022
iii. Inclusion of Ayush disease codes in ICD-11 TM-2 standard in January 2023
iv. Restoration of Ayush insurance coverage with clear guidelines from the IRDA starting from 2016, followed by affirmative steps in 2020 and as recently as 2024 whereby insurance enabled full cashless coverage is available for Ayurveda medical care.
v. Inclusion of Ayush care for Central Government employees and their families under CGHS scheme since 2016.
vi. Approval and setting up Ayush treatment centres/clinics by Ministry of Defense, Railways, ISRO, DAE, ESIC and many other government bodies.
vii. Inclusion of Ayush in the Heal-in-India and Heal-by-India flagship programs to promote medical value travel and foreign exchange earnings through Ayush based health and wellbeing services.
viii. National Clinical Management Protocols for each Ayush system was promulgated for prophylaxis and treatment of mild- moderate COVID-19 disease whereby Ayush played a potent role in limiting the adverse impact, severity, and number of deaths on account of COVID-19. Further, Ayush continues to play a significant role in Long COVID rehabilitation.
ix. Consistent dissemination and endorsement from India’s governing leadership of the appropriate role of Ayush in advancing public health goals.

Over the years the concept of preventive health- care has evolved significantly-from mere disease management to life cycle health management at individual/community level. “To ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages” is the Sustainable Development Goal 3 (SDG 3) of the United Nations.

The 13 targets and 28 indicators of SDG 3 cover and focus on various aspects of healthy life and healthy lifestyle. Ayurveda and Yoga inherently approach preventive, curative and promotive health from a life-cycle perspective with interventions that are appropriate to the disease stage, the individual, place, time.

Further, it adopts a whole-person approach that is culturally sensitive. Ayur-veda and Yoga offer a com- prehensive life-cycle health management framework for society at large that enables the achievement of several of the 13 targets of the SDG 3.

There is a rapid epidemiological transition with a shift in disease burden with proportion of deaths due to NCDs (among all deaths) from 38% in 1990 to 62% in 2016. Ayurveda and Yoga are poised to play a strong complementary, integrative role to complete the healthcare value chain, and particularly in primary-secondary-tertiary prevention of non-communicable diseases.

Further, Ayurveda and Yoga can significantly contribute to reducing the out-of-pocket expense burden of the common man by obviating/ preventing/ delaying the need for a significant proportion of elective surgeries.

Another key use case is the whole-person-care model offered by Ayurveda wherein people with multiple co-morbidities are rendered a personalised prescription of diet-lifestyle-counselling-medicine-therapies.

Additionally, Ayurveda based ‘Integrative Care’is an emerging practice that includes:

(a) Ayurveda and Yoga as complementary treatment to allopathy to enhance Functional-Health (State-of-Mind, Sleep, Bowels, Appetite, Digestion, Vitality, etc.) and overall Quality-of-Life.
(b) Ayurveda as adjuvant to primary allopathy care to manage Oedema, Myelosuppression, Cachexia, Spasms/Cramps, Mobilisation, Mucositis, Diarrhoea, Rashes, Nausea, and Pain, etc.
(c) Ayurveda and Yoga along with Physiatry (Physical & Medical Rehabilitation) for step-down-care post tertiary/quaternary allopathy management, to prevent disease recurrence and to restore good health (e.g., Rehab post CVA-Stroke/ Cancer/Polytrauma).

Ayurveda and Yoga based services shall generate employment in large numbers since they span multiple service avenues: Therapeutic Wellness, Standalone Ayurveda Hospitals/Therapy Centres/Clinics, Integrative Medicine Centres, Leisure Wellness, Step Down Care Centres.

Ayurveda hospitals offer the potential to alter the economics of healthcare particularly in a relatively capital-scarce country. Complementing the default high-capital-investment, short length-of-stay, tertiary/quaternary care models with low-capital-investment, longer (3x-5x) length-of-stay disease management models, Ayurveda and Yoga shall enable the building of a healthcare system that is affordable, accessible, acceptable to/for the common man.

A healthcare system which in addition to offering high quality tertiary/quaternary medical care spans the entire preventive healthcare spectrum from primal to primary to secondary to tertiary prevention.

Over the last 10 years there has been for the first time significant investment and growth in Ayurveda and Yoga based start-ups. Innovation spans Ayurveda products (pharmaceuticals, foods, nutraceuticals, cosmetics, lifestyle products), Ayurveda/Yoga services (hospitals, clinics, telemedicine, health management services, medical spas, training, leisure wellness) and innovative med-tech based on Ayurveda principles.

Indeed we see burgeoning interest also from the VC/PE fraternity to invest in this sector since consumer preference has gravitated towards herbal, natural, organic, wholesome products and services.

It is common knowledge that a majority of tourists who come to India have Ayurveda and Yoga as one of the primary experiential visit objectives- either for disease management or wellbeing. These tourists come from the most developed OECD countries. India, with Ayurveda and Yoga, is uniquely placed to become a health and wellbeing destination for the world.

Ayurveda and Yoga are India’s most powerful means of Soft Power- to win the hearts and minds of the peoples of the world. As developed nations struggle with balancing their healthcare budget with burgeoning chronic disease burden, double whammy of longevity with concomitant disability, ageing populations, shortage of healthcare professionals, Ayurveda and Yoga offer an alternate paradigm for whole-person, root cause disease reversal and sustained wellbeing.

India need not repeat the mistakes of first world nations. Instead it can show the path and inspire a more humane, citizen centric, affordable model of healthcare leveraging our unique heritage and strengths in an evidence-based, protocols driven health model- i.e. complete healthcare that reaches every village, town, and city.

In the next five years I am optimistic that Ayurveda and Yoga in partnership with conventional medicine shall enable the promise of accessible, acceptable, affordable healthcare for every Indian. Ayurveda and Yoga industry shall partner with Government at all levels to substantially realise this vision.

* Rajiv Vasudevan wrote this article for PIB which was published at The Sangai Express
The writer is MD & CEO, Apollo AyurVAID Hospitals
This article was webcasted on May 17 2024.

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