Speech at the 58th World Health Assembly

The Prince of Wales on integrated healthcare at the World Health Assembly, Geneva, Switzerland on 22nd May

On 22 May 2006 His Royal Highness Prince Charles delivered a speech at the 58th World Health Assembly, Geneva, Switzerland. The World Health Assembly is the supreme decision-making body for World Health Organization. It meets once a year and is attended by delegations from all of WHO’s 192 Member States. Its main function is to determine the policies of the Organization. Some interesting quotes from the speech:

[…..] This is where orthodox practice can learn from complementary medicine, the West can learn from the East and new from old traditions. For the past 24 years I have argued that patients should be able to gain the benefit of the “best of both worlds” – complementary and orthodox – as part of an integrated approach to healing. Many of today’s complementary therapies are rooted in ancient traditions that intuitively understood the need to maintain balance and harmony with our minds, bodies and the natural world. Much of this knowledge, often based on oral traditions, is sadly being lost yet, orthodox medicine has so much to learn from it. It is tragic, it seems to me – and indeed to many people who have studied this whole area – that in the ceaseless rush to “modernize”, many beneficial approaches, which have been tried and tested and have shown themselves to be effective, have been cast aside because they are deemed to be “old-fashioned” or “irrelevant” to today’s needs.[…..]

It seems to me, Ladies and Gentlemen, we all have so much to learn from each other – whether we live in an affluent country or a developing one. Hippocrates said “First, do no harm”. I believe that the proper mix of proven complementary, traditional and modern remedies, which emphasizes the active participation of the patient, can help to create a powerful healing force for our world. […..] In every treatment, the human attributes of compassion, empathy, touch and rapport are as vital to the art of medicine and healing as they are to the essence of humanity.

An integrated approach gives each individual the means and hope of contributing to his or her own healing. Integrated practitioners provide time, empathy, hope and reassurance – the so-called “human effect” – which can produce major changes in the immune system. These changes can be demonstrated using brain scans, and provide scientific clues as to how beliefs and emotions can influence our physical health and sense of wellbeing. The “human effect” can, therefore, play a demonstrably significant role in the whole approach to healing. […]

In the United Kingdom, my Foundation for Integrated Health has been the leading champion of this integrated approach for the past eleven years. Another of my organizations, the International Business Leaders Forum, has been working with the WHO on a number of projects aimed at, amongst other things, finding ways of improving health through better diets and increasing physical activity, in a number of countries.

My Foundation for Integrated Health has, as part of its approach, encouraged better research and regulation of complementary medicine so that patients can be confident of its safety and effectiveness. I am delighted that F.I.H. is now also working with the World Health Organization and the King’s Fund in London on a new project which has, as its main objective, the aim of examining and exploring different approaches to the regulation of complementary medicine worldwide. […] I understand, for instance, that the World Health Organization has been compiling a Global Atlas on the use of traditional, alternative and complementary medicine, something which will be fascinating to see as it develops. It does seem to me that this provides a useful start for planning integrated health approaches across the world. The case of Artemesia is a classic example of where real progress can be made. A naturally growing plant, long used in China for treating Malaria, Artemesia is now a treatment of choice in many parts of the World. I have also heard that it is currently being grown in Africa and that the W.H.O. is working to try to ensure that it will eventually become available to all who need it. […] Centuries ago, Plato said, “The cure of the part should not be attempted without treatment of the whole”. Centuries later, the World Health Organization recognized this principle in its 1948 constitution (incidentally, the year I was born!), when it defined health as a “complete state of physical, mental and social wellbeing”.

Today, therefore, is our chance to redefine our health systems so that they provide the balance and connectedness that the Twenty-First Century so desperately needs.

Ladies and Gentlemen, if we nurture the humane, guiding principles of integrated health through combining the best of the ancient, well-tried methods with the rigorous of science and the technological imperatives of our age, I believe we will be taking the first bold step in a new vision for the future healthcare of the world.

In that mission, you represent our hope and I wish you every possible success.

Read the full text here.