Policy Issues Relating To The Skin, To Women, To Traditional Medicine: Solutions For Health For All

Author

Professor Terence J Ryan, Hill House, Abberbury Ave, Iffley Oxford,OX44 EU England, Oxford Wound Healing Institute, Oxford University , UK

Proceeding

1st International Conference & Exhibition on Women's Health & Asian Traditional (WHAT) Medicine

Date

23/8/2005

Keyword

skin , women's health, traditional medicine, government's policy

Abstract

The Skin and Health Skin failure of its functions (display with confidence, acting as an environmental barrier, thermoregulation in a threatening climate, sensing the environment) has been a low priority of health policy makers. It has high prevalence and the widespread use of ineffective remedies including cosmetics is an economic burden.  The "look good feel good factor" is a major component of wellbeing and hence of health. The ill effects of disfigurement are greatest for the poor. Women's Health Health is a contribution to advancement and empowerment of both women and Society.   To ensure health requires an understanding of both sex (anatomical and physiological attributes, sexual function and the localization of common disease of skin and its adnexa such as hair, breasts and genitalia) and gender (cultural and social differences, adornment and role playing). Display uses highlighting the appearance, feel and odour of facial features, breasts buttocks and genitalia. Often this is mutilation of women and demanded by men alone. The cultural mores that favour the male child victimize the female child. The disadvantages of being female have not been helped by religion or moral values written by men. They are exploited by the media that promotes sex as playful and the skin is its focus. The outcome of pregnancy has no male equivalent. The woman as career, especially of the vulnerable at the extremes of life, is undergoing transition due to societal changes. Some of these such as the break up of family cohesion and responsibility, or the development of Caring professions are not helped by the attitudes of men. The new discoveries of science are not well balanced by research into solutions to human bad behaviour. Further more Science excludes the pregnant and the newborn from most of its evidence based studies creating a bias unfavourable to a focus on women and the already disadvantaged girl child. Traditional Medicine To look good and to be confident of one's looks is perceived as a desirable feature of Asian Traditional Medicine and a contribution to good health. Biomedicine collaborates with the cosmetic largely to enhance the earnings of the practitioner. Women are the principal custodians of traditional medicine and of the environment in which it is generated. It empowers them in the caretaking roles within a community and they are often the source of its wisdom. It benefits, especially in respect to safety, by the rare opportunities given it to be educated about the advances in science. Biomedicine shares many features of colonial power and often it is erosive of local wisdom. Its pursuit of causation somewhat neglects the complexity and the need for local wisdom in the control of human behaviour. Compared to traditional medicine it is unbalancing in its delivery, demands and costing. There are threats from societal changes altering climate, eroding traditional knowledge, reducing biodiversity, encouraging litigation against the practitioner, and providing disproportionate funding to Biomedicine. Objectives for Governance There should be more investment and strong advocacy for women and their role as custodians of Asian medicine. In primary health care they can play a much greater role in promoting health and in providing low cost, sustainable, locally available therapy. A small investment in the education of women would increase the availability of effective integration of biomedicine with traditional medicine. Importantly it will also reduce the cost of ineffective and expensive remedies and cosmetics. This will improve the health and wealth of communities. When women are also the caretakers of health centres and empowered to increase their attractiveness the uptake of much needed public health messages is increased. Privacy is largely absent from government services and this underestimates the role of the skin when disfigured as a deterrent in all communication including education in the prevention and management of disease. Many of the most important of these health messages relate to hygiene, skin and sexual health. With respect to this latter improved communication of many simple messages concerning attractiveness, skin and mucosal barrier function and perception will control procreation and deter the most destructive epidemic of our time. Reform of primary care must look at incentives competing with governance which allows therapists to make money out of increasingly expensive pharmaceuticals cosmetics investigations and procedures. "Poverty alleviation" is a heading that requires regulation of such competitors and a balanced promotion of other more caring and less costly providers of medicine, and the "look good feel good" factor. Governance should encourage the establishment of subsections of Academic Dermatology in each Nation focused on public health and skin care, using poverty alleviation and integrated medicine as key themes in the fight against epidemics demanding skincare. Some of these are ancient such as leprosy, leishmaniasis, and lymphatic filariasis. Some are contemporary such as HIV/AIDS. Some are predicted such as amputations of the diabetic foot and the problems prevalent in ageing skin such as the pressure ulcer in the sick elderly. These public health initiatives will empower women and their use of traditional medicine. It will provide experts in dermatology to lead the education of Allied Health Professionals.