Kerala’s Ayurveda has much in it for Britons, says UK MP, Bob Blackman

Conservative Party MP of UK Bob Blackman thinks that Kerala’s Ayurveda and Yoga could together play a major role in altering the lifestyle and health of the British people.

“There is an increasing interest in Yoga and Ayurveda in Britain. When Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the International Yoga Day, there was not much of a response from the people. Now, however, more people are interested in Yoga for the way it improves one’s quality of life,”  Blackman, who has been representing Harrow East from 2010 and who is the vice chair of the Parliamentary Group on International Traditional Sciences, told Ayurveda and Health Tourism in an exclusive interview.

In Kerala recently, Blackman had a first-hand experience of the traditional healthcare regime and hugely impressed by it. “We plan to submit a report to the Health Secretary on how to include traditional medicinal practices like Ayurveda into the mainstream to bring down lifestyle related diseases of the British people,”said  Blackman, citing the many health threats that people back home confront today.

Blackman, who was Greater London Assembly member for Brent & Harrow between 2004 and 2008, said he has been working to popularise Ayurveda and Yoga for long. The lukewarm response to Yoga in the first year’s Yoga Day observance had given way to greater acceptance from the people. In 2018, there was an impressive turnout of people on the International Yoga Day on June 21, clearly indicating the spread of awareness about the therapeutic values of Yoga, he said.

“There were huge public exhibitions in various parts of the United Kingdom on Yoga day. Several practitioners from India and British parliamentarians too were part of the observance, said  Blackman, who hopes to have traditional medicines and healthcare practices added to the Ten Year Plan of the National Health Services (NHS) unveiled in December 2018.

Kerala is already in forefront of healthcare under various streams. In the UK, Ayurveda cannot be considered as an alternative to modern medicine, but as a complementary stream. Yoga already has good acceptance in the UK as a complementary method of lifestyle-based healthcare. The breathing exercises and stretches do help people to have a long healthier life.

Although Ayurveda is a traditional medicine system, it is unlikely to be accepted an alternative to modern medicine. “Our idea is to promote Ayurveda as a complementary means to achieve wellness,” he said, citing the way herbs were used for treatment during the ancient times. In modern medicine, synthesised drugs which are more powerful are used. This results in side-effects.  “Throughout the world, in every village, women used to collect herbs to cure diseases. These herbs were used to prepare medicines in traditional methods for natural treatment across the globe,” he pointed out.

Apart from Yoga and Ayurveda, Unani too has great acceptance in the UK. ‘Unani Day’ was celebrated recently, with various practitioners from around the globe assembling at UK to share their experiences. The Unani practitioners converged at the British Parliament and spoke about its benefits and how this system is helping people to stay healthy. “We have a long tradition of homoeo medical care too,” he said.

Several doctors, technicians and nurses from the Indian subcontinent work at several hospitals in the UK. They know how the traditional medicines could be used and its benefits. But there is the great threat of those practising the traditional systems making tall claims about the curative properties of traditional medicines. “I am not sure about the treatment methods of alternative medicines as different methods are used in each sector”, he said.

In the UK, one of the major threats today is the addiction to smoking, which has acquired the dimensions of a serious health problem. The government is now encouraging people to quit smoking as it can lead to cancer. “We are targeting the youngsters to help them quit smoking. Parents are also being made aware of the consequences of smoking and ensure that their children do not fall prey to it,” he said.

Another key challenge is obesity with people having unhealthy food habits. There is lack of exercise among children as the majority sit glued to TV screens snacking on junk food and sweets. “Our government is encouraging children to engage in sports and also making parents aware about the need for exercise. The government is considering a ban on advertisement of junk food and steps to place sweets out of reach of children in super markets,” Blackman said.

He strongly believed that there is a great potential for medical tourism in the United Kingdom. The number of people coming from UK to India for treatment is on the rise. As technology has developed, the service of Indian doctors can be used at UK itself with the use of telemedicine. The huge cost for the travelling can thus be reduced.

The NHS does not fund treatment outside UK. So there is a need to encourage people to become practitioners of the traditional systems in the UK itself after gaining expertise in India through the technologies developed for diagnosis and treatment of diseases. With the increasing awareness about health issues, people are also increasingly turning to a vegetarian diet. Almost all the restaurants have vegetarian food and, today, Indian vegetarian food is very popular in the UK, the senior statesman said.

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