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Year : 2022  |  Volume : 5  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 135-139

Ayurveda for achieving sustainable development goals

Director, All India Institute of Ayurveda, Sarita Vihar, New Delhi, India

Date of Submission21-Dec-2022
Date of Acceptance24-Dec-2022
Date of Web Publication29-Dec-2022

Correspondence Address:
Prof. Tanuja Manoj Nesari
Director, All India Institute of Ayurveda, Sarita Vihar, New Delhi
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jacr.jacr_173_22

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How to cite this article:
Nesari TM. Ayurveda for achieving sustainable development goals. J Ayurveda Case Rep 2022;5:135-9

How to cite this URL:
Nesari TM. Ayurveda for achieving sustainable development goals. J Ayurveda Case Rep [serial online] 2022 [cited 2023 Jan 28];5:135-9. Available from: http://www.ayucare.org/text.asp?2022/5/4/135/365933

The entire world has witnessed an increase in the global demand for traditional systems of medicine and their services in recent times. Many nations are now realizing the need to develop an extensive and integrated system to access traditional systems of medicine in a way that is safe, respectful, affordable, and effective to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with its 17 goals and 169 targets. It has been implemented with the participation of all nations, all stakeholders, and all people, in a spirit of reinforced global solidarity. It emphasizes enhancing equity to better serve the needs of women, children, and the most vulnerable underprivileged people in society.[1] According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Sustainable development is a broad term that describes policies, projects, and investments that provide benefits today without sacrificing environmental, social, and personal health in the future, focusing on limiting the impact of development on the environment.” Ayurveda, the holistic science of medicine, has been practiced for centuries and is gaining the attention of the scientific communities and medical fraternity globally with its philosophical background emphasizing the attainment of physical and mental health as well as the spiritual aspect of health while keeping the body, mind, consciousness, and the universe in perfect harmony. Ayurveda explains the concept of “Loka – Purusha samyasiddhant” which describes the entities that are present in the universe are present in the individual too. Ayurveda emphasizes disease prevention and health promotion through its approaches to sustainability by enriching the relationship between people and nature. With sustainability at its core, Ayurveda, as an ancient holistic system of health care, is greatly concerned about natural resources, ecology, and their harmony with the human being. On a similar background to acknowledge the interlinkages between humans and nature, India is proud to hold the G20 Presidency from December 1 this year from Indonesia and will convene the G20 Leaders' Summit in the country in 2023. It seeks to play an important role by finding pragmatic global solutions for the well-being of all and will manifest the true spirit of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” or the “World is One Family” to encourage sustainable and environment-friendly lifestyles, based on India's tradition, highlighting the contribution of Ayurveda and global enthusiasm for Yoga.[2] India, with its rich tradition and diversity along with its indigenous approach, inclusive thinking, and lifestyle, is determined to provide solutions for global challenges.

Sustainable Development Goal-3 (SDG-3) places a strong emphasis on health: Ensure health and well-being for all, at all ages, supported by 13 goals that span the breadth of the mission of the WHO. Nearly all the next 16 goals are directly or indirectly tied to improving one's health. By achieving the “Triple billion” target, the WHO hopes to ensure that an additional one billion people benefit from Universal Health Coverage (UHC), are protected from health emergencies, and enjoy better health and well-being. These objectives are in line with and intended to assist in achieving SDG-3 – a crucial component of its 17-goal strategy to end poverty by 2030.[3] There is a dire need to plan for an integrated strategy to achieve UHC and SDG-3, where the role of traditional system of medicine system can play a significant and impactful role.

  Sustainable Development Goal-3 Top

Ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being at all ages are essential to sustainable development. More focused and adamant efforts are required to entirely eradicate a variety of diseases and treat a variety of persistent and new health problems. Significant progress can be made in saving the lives of millions by concentrating on improving sanitation and hygiene, funding health systems more effectively, and expanding access to health-care providers. The SDG-3 is supported by nine targets that, in general, fall into separate groups and address all major health priorities, including research and development and building countries' capacities to manage global health risks. These priorities include maternal, newborn, and child health, epidemics and communicable diseases, noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), substance abuse, etc.[1]

The 2030 Agenda is intertwined, and the objectives of SDG-3 are strongly related to those of other goals. Among these are SDG-2.2 (end all forms of malnutrition) SDG-4.1 (free, equitable, and good-quality secondary education), SDG-4.2 (good-quality early childhood development), SDG-4.7 (knowledge and skills for sustainable development), SDG-5.6 (universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights), SDG-8.3 (promote development-oriented policies that support productive activities decent jobs creation, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, and encourage formalization and growth of micro small- and medium-sized enterprises including through access to financial services), SDG-9.5 (enhance scientific research/increase number of R&D workers), and SDG-13.3 (improve education, awareness raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction, and early warning).[4],[5] These interlinkages show that advancements in other relevant fields must precede advancements in health outcomes.

  Ayurveda for Ensuring Health and Well-Being for All Top

In the recent past, the globe has witnessed severe health crises due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As per the reports, there have been 50.4 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of April 20, 2022, and 6.2 million deaths that could be directly attributed to COVID-19. Vulnerable groups, including the elderly, with underlying medical issues, unvaccinated, and those who are economically poor, have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19.[6] Research, therapeutic strategies, and recommended prophylactic measures have focused on maintaining health by strengthening the body's defense mechanisms. Ayurveda emphasizes the notion of preserving good health by strengthening the body through preventative, curative, and rehabilitative methods.

In light of the potential of Ayurveda in addressing the challenges of restoring health and supporting a lifestyle for immunity enhancement, an Interdisciplinary Ayush Research and Development Task Force with a group of senior experts was formed to formulate and develop strategies for COVID-19 mitigation. A “National Clinical Management Protocol based on Ayurveda and Yoga for management of COVID-19,” integrating Ayurveda and Yoga was released as a milestone for the management of COVID-19 in the nation.[7] A set of guidelines and recommendations for enhancing immunity and self-care using Ayurvedic principles has been made available from time to time to help patients suffering from the deadly COVID-19 virus.[8] Considering the emerging evidence of long-term sequelae in a considerable proportion of COVID-19 patients after recovery, there is a constant threat to society and the health of people during and after COVID-19 infection. Ministry of Ayush (MoA) has released a set of guidelines, “Ayush recommendations for the public on holistic health and well-being preventive measures and care during COVID-19 and long COVID-19,” emphasizing the self-care of the individuals by addressing various dimensions of life and health.[9]

The total number of deaths attributed to NCDs has increased as a result of population growth and longer life expectancies. About 33.2 million people died from cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and chronic respiratory disorders in the world in 2019, a 28% rise since 2000. Due to COVID-19, those who already have NCDs are at an elevated risk of serious illness and death which is anticipated to increase the number of NCD deaths. According to a report, the prevalence of NCDs has increased from 30% of the total disease burden (measured in “disability-adjusted life years” or “DALYs”) in 1990 – 55% in 2016 and from 37% of all deaths in 1990 – 61% in 2016.[10] Almost 5.8 million Indians die from NCDs (heart and lung diseases, stroke, cancer, and diabetes) per year, or 1 in 4 Indians are at risk of dying from an NCD before the age of 70 years.[11] The growing need for proactive and wellness strategies for providing health-care services is gaining speed and attention as opposed to investing in treatments for illness. Ayurveda states that the health of an individual is interrelated to one's constitution, and to sustain a healthy life, one should adhere to the principles of Dinacharya (~daily regimen), Ritucharya (~seasonal regimen), Sadvritta (~good conduct and behavior), Rasayana (~rejuvenation and revitalization therapy), Vajikarana (~aphrodisiac or virility treatment), and Achara rasayana (~customary law, codes, conducts, and behavior which prevents the psychosomatic ailments). These practices ensure the prevention of diseases in healthy persons to prevent diseases and also arrest the progress of the disease and complications in diseased persons through modified lifestyle approaches. Through specialized dietary and lifestyle guidance, this special contribution of Ayurveda can be used to avoid NCDs.

Owing to this, various initiatives had been led by the MoA to integrate the National Programme for Prevention and Control of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Diseases, and Stroke with Ayurveda to reduce the incidences of NCDs.[12] The previous reports on this integrative strategy integration at the grassroots level have emerged as a useful tool for a future action plan for the concerned issue and can be adapted to make suitable policy decisions for integration to develop a stronger health-care network for the prevention and control of NCDs.[13] Health and nutrition are closely related. Ayurveda has acknowledged the significance of diet and nutrition in health and disease. Ayurveda has given a depth of scientific insight into tissue nutrition and unique concepts of Dravya (~substance), Guna (~attribute/property), Rasa (~taste), Prakriti (~somatic constitution), Kala (~time), Stratos (~structural or functional channels), and Agni (~digestive/metabolic factors) as regulators of metabolism and the concept has great implications in the management of malnourishment and various metabolic disorders.[14] An Ayurveda-inspired emerging branch of “Ayurnutrigenomic” is a novel concept in the realm of nutrigenomics research for developing personalized functional foods and nutraceuticals suitable to one's genetic makeup.[15] Specified dietary and lifestyle recommendations are always prescribed in Ayurveda along with medications and treatments to help restore homoeostatic biomechanics and well-being.

Appropriate utilization of Ayurveda principles for the prevention and management of malnutrition and related disorders needs community-based intervention by incorporating the existing Ayush paraphernalia. Considering this, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was exchanged between the Ministry of Women and Child Development and MoA as a milepost in the fight against malnutrition and aimed at the shared goal of eradicating malnutrition and enhancing the health of everyone, particularly women and children. It shall focus on maternal nutrition, infant and young child feeding norms, treatment of moderate acute malnutrition/severe acute malnutrition, and wellness through Ayush along with initiatives for creating nutrigarden in every Anganwadi, medicinal gardens in certain Anganwadi facilities, etc.[16] The MoA has also released a comprehensive document titled “Ayush Dietary Advisory for Kuposhan Mukt Bharat” which covers general dietary advisory, dietary recommendations for pregnant women, dietary suggestions for lactating mothers, diet plans for children, and dietary advisory for anemia in pregnancy and malnourished children. This document will serve as a handy reference for health-care providers for better dissemination and adoption of Ayush-based practices at large.[17]

The ability to maintain good health depends on consuming enough micronutrients throughout one's life. Increasing agricultural production may improve food security, reduce hunger, and improve access to healthy food to support the health of mothers, newborns, and children. “Vriksha Ayurveda,” a dedicated branch for the health of the plant kingdom, is one of the most ancient agricultural and forestry practices based on the principles of nature and organic farming, which includes strategies to enhance nutritional properties, seed preservation, pretreatment, nutrition of seedlings, plant maintenance, postharvest processing, and storage.[18] According to the sustainability ideals of Ayurveda, herbs used in its medicines should be grown using ethical agricultural practices adhering to the specific rules for their development and collection. To promote and facilitate research, validation, and deployment of agritechnologies related to medicinal plants and their value-added products for the benefit of humans, plants, and animals; MoA has signed a tripartite MoU with the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research. It is aimed to raise awareness of Indian traditional agricultural practices and joint R and D initiatives for validating and implementing various interventions to support socioeconomic growth in the nation.[19] Besides this, the National Medicinal Plants Board, under MoA, through its Central Sector Scheme on “Conservation, Development, and Sustainable Management of Medicinal Plants,” various activities have been taken for sustainable development such as in situ conservation/ex situ conservation livelihood linkages with Joint Forest Management Committees/Panchayats/Van Panchayats/Biodiversity Management Committees/Self-help Groups, promotion, marketing and trade of medicinal plants produce, etc.[20]

The Ayurveda sector has experienced unprecedented growth, particularly in the food industry, which has created new and bright career opportunities. Ayurvedic therapies are advised based on a person's daily dietary intake (~Aahar) and lifestyle (~Vihar), which opens the scope for the development of ecology in Ayurveda food research. Young children in schools need to be taught this important aspect of Ayurveda knowledge, which not only give boost to the popularity of careers such as nutritionists, dieticians, and food specialists, in addition but will also help to provide the ancient science of Ayurveda a global advantage with the massive adoption of its deeply embedded dietary principles among the society. On account of this, various strategies and efforts are being made to implement to include the preliminary knowledge of Ayurveda and Yoga in the school syllabus.[21] The Department of Higher Education established an Implementation Committee for the National Education Policy 2020 which includes professionals from the Ayush sector for input in the implementation of New Education Policy and an outline of a syllabus based on Ayurveda and yoga for school children in grades 1–12, including nursery, lower kindergarten, and upper kindergarten levels have been drafted.[22]

  Way Forward Top

The rising demand for wellness strategies is gaining momentum, and there is a pragmatic shift from investing in treatments for illness to proactive and wellness strategies. The expanding wave of wellness-focused demands would undoubtedly be met with the help of Ayurvedic pleas for better living and insights into remedies that are more wellness-oriented. Owing to the growing demand and popularity of the traditional system of medicine, the WHO has developed the “WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy 2014–2023” to integrate the traditional system of medicine into the health-care system using specific procedures that address all of its potential.[23] The WHO envisions Ayurveda as playing an important position in the traditional and complementary medicine that enhances citizen welfare and access to universal health care.

Ayurveda offers simple, affordable, yet effective solutions to address the crisis of malnutrition. Ayurveda furnishes a life course approach to child health from preconception to adolescents and also includes the health of women before pregnancy. The holistic regimens are advised during various stages of pregnancy, namely, Garbhini-paricharya and childbirth, i.e., Sutika-paricharya are required to ensure healthy and smooth childbirth, at the same time, sustain the overall health, nutrition, and well-being of both woman and baby. This demands a multisectoral approach to child health by recognizing and integrating the contributions of all sectors related to child health while preserving the essence of the mainstays of the program. Various measures such as educating the public about malnutrition and its effects, putting Ayurveda-led dietary and eating habits into practice, and assistance and counseling related to Ayurveda for nutrition should be provided through the potential means/sources in the community. Several nutritional awareness campaigns, communication campaigns, and the development of sustainable ecosystems are required to be developed at a larger scale. It has been observed that underfunding always has a negative influence on the health of the population which is responsible for inequities in access to health care. It is thus crucial to create fiscal space for expanding employment in the Ayurveda/Ayush health sector. The management of migration of Ayurveda health-care workers, including Ayurveda therapists/Counselors/Paramedical staff, etc., and implementation of the international code of conduct for hiring the health-care staff is vital to upgrade the current status of Ayurveda health-care services in the country.

The sustainability ideals of Ayurveda in agriculture practices are a very welcome aspect that facilitates the approaches to sustainability and enriches the relationships between people (society), things (economy), and nature. It emphasizes the preventive side of nature as the source of healing and personal care. Hence, the efforts toward integrating Ayurveda-specific agripractices need to be promoted and should be made approachable to the population at large globally. The entire global health-care ecosystem can experience remarkable advancements due to information and communication technologies. It enables health workers to be connected to information and diagnostic services and allows them to form support networks and this necessitates additional investments in the IT sector to increase coverage and accessibility.

It is hereby noteworthy that the 2030 agenda does not adequately address emerging threats like antimicrobial resistance, which may jeopardize the progress made in combating infectious diseases as well as other SDGs, particularly those pertaining to the environment, food and agriculture, water, sanitation, research and development, and economic growth. The approach of Ayurveda toward boosting the defense system of the host and reestablishing homeostasis in the individual requires effective dissemination of information about the comprehensive preventive and curative approach of Ayurveda and compels tangible steps for the development of strategies to increase awareness toward the accessibility of Ayurveda globally. More advanced research and development programs along with a boost in innovations, education, and practice sector are required. Physical and mental health are intertwined; thus, both must be addressed equally. Ayurveda lays a strong emphasis on the patient's mind–body link and views the mind as an essential and inseparable component of the living being. It also focuses on extending life expectancy, but this concept extends beyond simply living a long life to include each person's capacity for good aging with the goal of fully experiencing life.

Ayurveda offers sustainable solutions for the overall development of maternal, newborn, and children health and mental health along with addressing the issue of malnutrition, epidemics, resurgence of communicable diseases, antibiotic-resistant infections, viral illnesses, chronic diseases, and NCDs worldwide. It is obvious that government-led initiatives and measures are essential for ensuring that favorable outcomes can be obtained. Owing to diverse levels of interactions among the targets, persistent efforts have been made so far to utilize the ancient old timely tested science of Ayurveda in policymaking to support and contribute to SDG-3. To fully realize the potential of Ayurveda and make India the world leader in accessible and affordable health care as required by SDGs, numerous other concrete actions, strategies, comprehensive policies, legislation, regulation, research, development, budget, capacity building, professional development, etc., are also necessary. Ayurveda, the most ancient and widely practiced traditional system of medicine, will definitely play a significant part in promoting health and contribute to accomplishing SDG-3 through its age-old knowledge heritage and principles that have been time tested, scientifically backed, validated, and accepted globally.

  References Top

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