Articles

Introduction to Traditional Medicine Box (TM Box) : Nippon Foundation

Actively using traditional medicines is one way to make healthcare more affordable and accessible for people living far from healthcare centers.

In 2004, recognizing the potential of traditional medicines for improving primary health care, The Nippon Foundation launched a model project in Mongolia to promote traditional medicines. As you know, many Mongolians live a nomadic life, moving frequently across great distances. Because of the difficulties these people have accessing doctors and medicines, relatively minor complaints often develop into serious illnesses. In order to achieve a better medical environment, we combined Mongolia's traditional medicines with a system of medicine distribution unique to Japan ~ a system that has been in use for about 300 years.

 

Traditional Medicine Kits

Now, what was needed is a system that gives people living in isolated areas access to inexpensive medicines when they need them. Traditional medicines are less expensive than modern medicines. Traditional medicines incorporate thousands of years of human knowledge and experience. The medicine kit system as well has a three hundred year tradition in Toyama, Japan; Medicine vendors go directly to people's homes and leave behind a supply of medicines. The next time they visit, they collect money only for the medicines that have been used, and they replenish the kit as necessary. Under this arrangement, people always have medicines on hand when they fall ill.

This project demonstrates that the use of traditional medicines can help to resolve the problems of cost and access to medical care. Recently, Myanmar and Thailand have also introduced their own versions of this system.

The Nippon Foundation believes the effectiveness of the efforts in these countries will have a favorable influence on other countries and regions. However, what is effective in one country may not be effective in another. Every country has its own culture and its own unique national or local characteristics. It is very important for the potential of traditional medicines to be considered and applied flexibly, always respecting the situation of the country concerned. There needs to be much discussion in order for new ideas to emerge.

As for The Nippon Foundation's role, we want to see each country make effective use of its resources in the area of traditional medicine. We want to cooperate in an appropriate way in each case. ASEAN is a future-oriented network focused on the achievement of prosperity through cooperation among member nations. Through the collective application of information and knowledge accumulated by its members, ASEAN can connect individual action "points" into action "lines" and, eventually, broad-ranging action networks.
Many people in the world suffer greatly because they have no access to medical care or medicine. The Nippon Foundation strives for a world in which those who live in remote locations can enjoy the benefits of sustainable primary health care. We believe that traditional medicine is one way of achieving this. Not only that, we believe it will also reduce health costs and promote integrated medicine.

The Nippon Foundation's website:
http://www.nippon-foundation.or.jp/en/

For reference:
Report of the WHO interregional workshop on the use of traditional medicine in primary health care (Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, 23-26 August 2007)
http://www.who.int/medicines/areas/traditional/mongolia_reporttrm/en/index.html