AYURVEDA for public health

Dr. Shivkumar Harti 

New Delhi

The science of protecting and improving the health of people and their communities constitutes public health. Apart from researching disease and injury prevention, and detecting, preventing and responding to infectious diseases; the domain of public health envelopes promotion of healthy lifestyles as well.

According to National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) data on “Key Indicators of Social Consumption in India: Health, (2017–18)”, out of the total ailing population more than 33% of the individuals are affected with infectious diseases. Although the share of infectious diseases in overall mortality cannot be overlooked, non-communicable diseases have rapidly emerged imposing a double-economic burden on the country. The chronicles of public health have witnessed an extreme demographic and epidemiological transition especially in low and middle-income countries. The changing pattern and distribution of morbidity and mortality have burdened the pre-existing inadequate public health systems. Disease share of non-communicable diseases has raised from 37.9% to 61.8% and the share of infectious diseases have maintained 27.5% for three decades.

Establishment of Health and Wellness Centres has already been initiated by government of India under Ayushman Bharat scheme. This shift from a selective approach to a comprehensive range of services denotes the current need of public health. The holistic principles of Ayurveda play a pivotal role in catering these needs. Ayurveda encompasses multidimensional care eg. Preventive, promotive, curative, rehabilitative, and palliative care.
The major factors that are crucial for disease manifestation in an individual are Host (Kshetra), Season (Kala), Nutrition (Ambu) and Genetic factors (Beej). If we strengthen these factors, the odds of disease occurrence minimize. Reduced disease burden on a country provides better chances of its economic development.

A. Healthy Growing
Strengthening the host would include salutary factors like immunomodulation through various regimens of Ayurveda e.g., some daily regimen procedures like nasya, abhyanga, kavala, gandusha etc.; decade-wise rasayana therapy and following other codes of conduct. Though the paramount substance of health preservation and promotion through healthy lifestyle lies in prevention and management of non-communicable diseases, the association of preventive and health promotive measures with reduced COVID-19 incidence and better quality of life among police personals has already been showcased. Inculcation of such activities in day-to-day life of school going children would certainly help raise a physically, mentally and socially healthier generation who will be less prone to diseases and contribute to the country’s overall growth efficiently. Such regimens definitely have potential to offer quality improvement of cure and care in healthcare set-ups.

B. Prakriti specific diets and therapeutic AYUSH diet
Genetic material determines all the functions in the body. The concept of nutrigenomics apprises that nutrition modifies the extent to which different genes are expressed and thereby modulates whether individuals attain the potential established by their genetic background. Specific dosha/prakriti type based Ayurvedic therapies and foods have been advocated in Ayurveda, mass education programmes and diet modules for personalized nutrition can be framed.

C. Pre-conceptional and Antenatal Care
Providing new horizons to obstetric care through Ayurveda, Garbhadhan samskara and garbhini paricharya are the tools which shape up the statement “The objective of antenatal care should be not only to discover or even though diminish the incidence of abnormality in pregnancy and parturition but also to secure normality and a high standard of mental and bodily fitness”. A module including cleansing therapies, use of rasayan and vajikaran herbs before conception, general dietary guidelines and month-wise specific dietary regimen, lifestyle modifications, mental relaxation techniques; specific yog, pranayama and dhyana practices should be implemented for a healthy gene passage and healthy future community.

D. Mental Health
Use of Medhya Rasayana, Achara Rasayana, Yoga and Pranayama practices etc. raise the strength of sattva and hence promote mental health of an individual.

E. Preventive Seasonal Purificatory Therapies
Shodhana chikitsa in Ayurveda fulfils preventive as well as curative aspects. If an individual does not follow appropriate daily and seasonal regimens, diseases manifest. For seasonal disease prevention, different shodhana therapies have been advocated for healthy individuals. If an individual pro-actively undergoes these shodhana therapies, the accumulated dosha expel out from the body and he remains healthy. Provision of such procedures at HWCs may help improve community health and decrease incidences of seasonal diseases.

F. Tertiary Prevention and QOL enhancement
As a part of rehabilitative therapies, to shorten the duration of disease process and to pace up the recovery process; many immunomodulatory herbs and yogic procedures do wonders. It is evident now that ayurvedic formulations like AYUSH Kwath, rasayana like Chyawanprash and procedures like Oil pulling, yoga and pranayama helped people recover early and better from a deadly infective disease like COVID-19 also. So the current era demands to utilize this science in welfare of public health.