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25.01.2006 Health

Health Minister advocates information research centre

By GNA

Accra, Jan. 25, GNA - Major Courage Quasghigah (rtd), Minister of Health, on Wednesday called for a research centre for literature on scientific information on traditional medicine.

He said such a centre would serve as a reference bureau for generations to tap the knowledge of their forefathers and build upon it "so our leaders do not die with their knowledge".

He was speaking at a two-day meeting of traditional medicine practitioners organised by the National Forum on the Harnessing Research, Science and Technology for Sustainable Development. The Minister said some practitioners had failed to pass on their knowledge to their wards with the excuse that "my son is a bad boy, therefore, if I teach him what I know, he might play with it and misuse it".

The meeting, under the theme: "Traditional Medicine Practice: The Scientific Way and Professionalism", would serve as a platform for researchers, scientists, policy makers and traditional healers to exchange ideas and knowledge, educate each other and form partnerships to move traditional medicine forward.

Some topics to be discussed include, policy directions with respect to traditional medicine practice in Ghana, scientific methods in herbal preparations, professionalism of traditional medicine practice and contemporary traditional medicine practice.

He noted that such a centre would therefore solve some of these problems saying: "We should also have plant herbal gardens to have some of these plants to sustain the raw materials."

Major Quashigah said there was the need to bridge the gap created between research scientists and the traditional medicine practitioners, which had generated a lot of problems including who owned the intellectual property rights. He expressed the hope that such a forum would serve as a platform to address these problems.

Professor George Benneh, Chairman of the Forum on Harnessing Research, Science and Technology, called for a special fund to assist the research centres in order to motivate traditional healers to submit their products for scientific test and assessment.

"Of course, traditional healers need to be assured that their intellectual property is safeguard," he said.

He urged participants to discuss the issues of correct and precise dosage for herbal preparations, their storage and preservation, the possibility of manufacturing capsules and the safety of the preparation. Prof. Benneh urged participants to use the meeting to thrash out all prejudices and mistrust currently existing between traditional healers and research scientists.

Agya Appiah, President of the Ghana Federation of Traditional Medicine Practitioners Association (GHAFTRAM), said more than 70 per cent of the Ghanaian population depended on traditional medicine for their health.

He said it was unfortunate that huge sums of money were spent in training doctors and research and "not a penny has been given to us to even train our people abroad to update their knowledge and skills let alone support our research".

He noted that the Government's proposed subvention meant for them had still not been received and "we even doubt whether it will come". Agya Appiah urged Ghanaians to appreciate the role and efforts of traditional healers in ensuring good health instead of "some intellectuals accusing us of problems created by other types of medications. "Traditional medicine is what we have and we must make the best out of it. No culture can grow if the people who are held up as the cream of society continued to look outward for salvation." He urged the Government to invest at least one-third of what was being given to the teaching hospitals to lift the standard of traditional medicine in the country. 25 Jan. 06

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