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Regional Integrated Health Forum brings together experts and policy makers to discuss holistic remedies
Jennifer Muller  |  Office of Communications  |  | 


​Around the world, the upsurge of holistic remedies has largely been driven by public demand. Billions of dollars are spent in the US alone on non-conventional healthcare including acupuncture, herbal medicine, massage, and yoga. The response of the healthcare sector has been varied: some reject it wholesale, some believe we need to be open-minded yet critical, and yet others are staunch advocates of incorporating integrative health approaches in medical school curricula and patient care. What to believe? Which path should Lebanon follow? Where do we go from here?

As a component of AUB's Health 2025 Vision​, a Regional Integrative Health Forum was organized by the AUB Nature Conservation Center led by its Director Dr. Najat Saliba and the Health and Wellness Center headed by Dr. Maya Romani at AUBMC's Department of Family Medicine, in order to tackle these tough questions. The all-day forum on February 3, 2017, held under the patronage of the Minister of Public Health and the Minister of Industry, brought together experts from around the world to discuss integrative health with AUB faculty members from a wide range of disciplines, as well as government officials and policy influencers.

“How do we develop a viable plan for the health of future generations?" asked President Fadlo R. K​huri during the forum's opening ceremony, speaking both as the head of AUB and as an oncologist with 28 years of first-hand experience. “I think there is a more holistic approach to health that is healthier than just medicine. It is a combinatorial approach; it is traditional, Western, altruistic medicine and learning more about a holistic approach, towards what we call the healthy human."

The high-powered opening ceremony included a representative of the Lebanese Order of Pharmacists, President of the Lebanese Order of Physicians Raymond Sayegh, CNRS Secretary General Mouin Hamze, Industry Minister, and a representative of the Minister of Public Health.

“Four out of ten people in Lebanon are relying on alternative medicine," said Dr. Sayegh, adding that the Order of Physicians is aware of the problem and seeking solutions to it.  “We want it to be safe and effective, and used rationally," he said.  The need to approach integrative health with an open-minded yet critical mindset, with the safety of the public as the first priority, was echoed by other speakers.

“We do not stand in the way of any ideas as long as they respect science and humans," remarked Farid Karam. “Our role as the Ministry of Health is not exclusive. Alongside universities and syndicates, we are all responsible to promote safe alternative medicine and we are responsible for the consequences," he said.

“This is a vast topic that needs a lot of research," noted Industry Minister Hussein Hajj Hassan, going on to stress the importance of looking at the issue from all angles, including the legal, medical, research, agricultural, and economic aspects.

In addition to the opening ceremony, three panels were convened, each with a plenary speaker followed by a panel discussion. In the first session on “Why Should Health Schools Embrace Integrative Health," Dr. Stephen Sagar of McMaster University in Canada talked about integrative health as being patient-centered care that focuses on the mind-body-environment connection and encourages patient self-empowerment.

The afternoon sessions began with plenary speaker Dr. Michael Wink from Heidelberg University, leading off a discussion about the “Safety and Toxicity of Herbal Medicine: Promoting Evidence-Based Research to Support Policy."  Panelists then took on important policy issues such as regulation, licensure, ethics codes for practitioners, and insurance coverage for integrative health approaches and holistic remedies. 

The final session of the day focused on “Adoption of Integrative Health as Part of Clinical Care," and began with a plenary talk by Dr. Peter Fisher of the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine. He spoke about innovative approaches to dealing with the growing problem of antimicrobial resistance and on the WHO's Traditional and Complementary Medicine Strategy 2014-2023, which he helped prepare.

“Are we there?" asked President Khuri during the opening ceremony. “No, but I think we are starting to be more open minded in the medical profession and the nursing profession and all the allied health professions, and I want to commend the organizers," he said, referring to Dr. Najat Saliba of the AUB Nature Conservation Center and Dr. Maya Romani of the Health and Wellness Center. “Assembling all these people with such diverse backgrounds is a very important step in that direction," concluded President Khuri.​
Story Highlights
  • ​​​As a component of AUB's Health 2025 Vision, a Regional Integrative Health Forum was organized by the AUB Nature Conservation Center led by its Director Dr. Najat Saliba and the Health and Wellness Center headed by Dr. Maya Romani at AUBMC's Department of Family Medicine, in order to tackle these tough questions.
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