Ayurveda, today is becoming more popular among people across the world as a medical system that is natural, herbal and free of all side-effects. Here, Dr. Abhimanyu Kumar, tells Ninu Susan Abraham the role of Ayurveda in bringing up a healthy child and create a healthy world altogether.
Excerpts from the interview:
Summer vacation is over. As an expert in Ayurveda and Director of All India Institute of Ayurveda, New Delhi, what are your tips for children back to school?
Summer vacation usually ends up with the start of rainy season. This season is not very child-friendly. If proper care is not taken during this season, children can get easily infected with gastrointestinal-tract infections. During this season, children should avoid eating snacks, fruits etc. which are sold by street vendors. Maintaining hygiene in all areas, especially in the cleaning of hands is important for preventing the attack of infections. Many water-borne diseases like- jaundice, typhoid are also much prevalent in this season. Humidity may precipitate allergy, asthma and few skin disorders. Those children with a history of asthma should avoid playing outside, especially when the atmosphere is very humid. Regular intake of milk added with turmeric (Haldi) powder may help to increase immunity in children.
Considering that this issue of Ayurveda & Health Tourism is a children’s special, what do you think is the scope of Ayurveda for Children?
Ayurveda has great scope for paediatric practice. It offers very good treatment to children, especially in the area of boosting immunity. Management of allergic disorders, especially respiratory allergy is done efficiently and effectively in Ayurveda. It also offers good mental health care, including in the management of problems like-learning disabilities, Attention-Deficit Hyperactive disorders, Autism spectrum disorders, academic stress etc. In children, most of the time diarrheoa is not due to infection but affect children due to non-infectious reasons, termed as non-specific diarrheoa. Management of non-specific diarrheoa in children by using Ayurvedic drugs offers a great solution to those children with tender gut. Besides this, metabolic disorders, including obesity, specific untreatable/ difficult to manage conditions, like- cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy etc. can be managed very efficiently through Ayurveda. Ayurveda also offers a personalised approach of counseling for every child.
According to you, what can be done to promote Ayurveda globally?
Recently, in the last few decades, Ayurveda received a big boost in the West due to its unique holistic approach and capability for promoting positive health. If we analyze, there are four areas in which Ayurveda may show its presence globally. These areas are- clinical services, teaching & training, research and export of raw herbal medicines and finished products. Therefore, the national strategy should be to promote Ayurveda in all these four areas to show global presence of Ayurveda at various levels.
However, there are some areas that need to be studied carefully for the global promotion of Ayurveda. In this category, the standardisation in the field of production and practice should be given top priority. It is a time of information technology, therefore various types of authentic information related to Ayurveda should be made easily accessible. There has to be an agency or authority which should be the single source of all the needed information on all aspects of the trade, availability of expertise, data of R&D work.
Is India doing enough to revive Ayurveda and make its presence at par with other mainstream medical systems? If not, what are your suggestions?
Govt of India through the Ministry of AYUSH, Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of HRD including some other Ministries along with various other agencies are putting their efforts in their own way to revive and establish Ayurveda as a mainstream medical system. We are observing results which are very much encouraging.
Mainstreaming the Ayurveda system is one of the key strategies under the National Rural Health Mission & National AYUSH Mission, under which it is envisaged that all primary health centres, block primary health centres, and community health centtrs will provide AYUSH treatment facilities under the same roof.
What do you think are the main objectives of government bodies like AYUSH in spreading Ayurveda?
The Vision of the Ministry of AYUSH is to position AYUSH systems as the preferred systems of living and practice for attaining a healthy India. The ministry has identified its mission in terms of seven broad thematic areas of AYUSH activities. The thematic areas are: Effective human resource development, provision of quality AYUSH services, information, education and communication, quality research, growth of the medicinal plants sector, drug administration, and international exchange programme/seminars/workshops on AYUSH systems.
What are our insurance companies doing to acknowledge and cover Ayurveda as a medical system?
This has already started. In 2012–13, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) recommended that health insurance companies should include alternative medicine in their scope of cover. This would support Ayurveda treatment. Most insurance providers now cover AYUSH systems under their insurance plans. However, a few companies are yet to incorporate the change. Some of them cover only Ayurvedic therapies like Panchakarma procedures.
How big is the Ayurveda tourism industry? What are the scopes for it to grow further?
Recently India has grown to be one of the most important hubs for medical tourism. At this point of time adopting a strategy for marketing Ayurveda as part of the ‘health tourism’ would put it on the global map, especially for treatment of certain chronic and lifestyle related disorders and for wellness.
Presumed to become the fifth largest consumer market globally by 2020, India demonstrates all the demographic advantages of an ideal market for leading international spa, wellness brands and Ayurveda treatment centers. Thus, it will support the Ayurveda tourism also.
Today, all around the world, Ayurveda has been adopted as a crucial part of the lifestyle and management of diseases. Since Ayurveda has been originated and flourished in India, it is apparent that one gets the world’s best Ayurvedic treatment in India.
The available data clearly indicate that in the last two decades, there has been a growing demand for Ayurvedic treatment and medicines in India as well as abroad. As a case study, we may take the example of Kerala state that has a huge potential for developing medical tourism. It has already made achievements in this regard. Ayurveda registered 10-12 per cent growth yearly and contributed around three per cent value addition annually to the manufacturing sector in Kerala. The state made it happen through its systematic production of medicine, institutionalization of education and professionalization of clinical practice. By promoting Ayurveda, the state has achieved about a 30 per cent increase in tourist flow that are availing the Ayurvedic medical care with a 40 per cent increase in tourism revenue of the state. This model may be utilised by other states too.
What is the role of the Ayurveda tourism industry in increasing foreign exchange? Tourism is linked with foreign exchange.
Ministry of AYUSH, Ministry of Tourism, Govt. of India and NABH- Quality Council of India have developed quality standards for accreditation of Ayurveda hospitals and wellness centers to ensure quality standardisation of services, a pre-requisite for global medical tourism. The Government of Kerala has put in place a certification scheme for providers of Ayurveda healthcare services. Institutions may get certified with ‘Olive Leaf’ and ‘Green Leaf’ certifications based on the facilities on the premises, availability of qualified professionals, infrastructure, etc. There is a need to replicate the model of Kerala in the other States too. Hospitality industry should also join hands with the Ayurveda sector to enrich the Ayurveda tourism concept in a big way.
Forbes India report, 2014 mentioned that medical or health tourism is the crown- jewel to shape the future of economic growth and health care. The report emphasixes that medical tourism, including Ayurveda tourism is a booming sector, which expects to grow to $5 billion by the current year. Ayurveda tourism in India is to be a major source of income for the country. Hopefully, within a few years India will be the preferred destination for Ayurveda health care services as foreign tourists are greatly impressed by it.
A leading American newspaper daily, ‘USA Today’ highlighted the possibilities of Ayurveda tourism in India and how Ayurveda treatments generates big bucks in India.
What’s your advices to those who are addicted to mobiles, internet and computers?
I’ll restrict my suggestion for children’s addiction to mobiles, internet and computers. It’s a fact that human beings have a deep, primitive desire to know everything that’s going on around them. Mobile, Internet, computer is the best known devices to fulfil it. But computer technologies can be addictive, because they are psychoactive, alter mood and often trigger enjoyable feelings.
If parents observe the below symptoms, these could easily indicate Internet or computer addiction: losing track of time spent online, experiencing difficulty completing tasks at home or work, isolation from friends and family, feeling defensive or guilty about Internet usage, experiencing a sense of euphoria when involved in online activities. Individuals who have an Internet addiction may also experience physical symptoms like-strained vision, sleep problem, carpal tunnel syndrome, significant weight loss or weight gain, severe headaches etc.
Adolescents are more prone to become addicted to the Internet as they become less dependent on their parents. I would like to suggest some tips for parents of Internet addicts.
- Encourage your child to be involved in other interests and social activities.
- Talk to your child about the underlying issues of excessive use of electronic devices. Monitor their computer use and set clear limits.
- If things are out of control of parents it is advised to take professional help.
- Besides good counselling, some Ayurvedic herbs and Panchakarma procedures may be useful in most of the cases.
Finally, some do’s and don’ts for children to lead a healthy life.
Parents should inculcate good hygiene practices in children. Cleaning hands before taking food can prevent several types of infections. Encourage physical activities that they’ll really enjoy. Limit TV, video game and computer time. Make dinner time a family time. Encourage children to play outdoors. Keep things positive. Parents should try to be a good role model. Try to inculcate good food habits and keep a few things in your mind while doing so, like- don’t serve only what your kid already likes, prioritize family meal, mothers should avoid to being a short-order cook, don’t force your child to try a bit, don’t use food as a reward, make eating healthy a fun activity.