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Promoting medical tourism

Shyama Rajagopal

Awareness needed for tourists to take Ayurveda seriously

KOCHI: Only few tourists know that Ayurveda is not just massage spas but a full-fledged medical treatment system. "I did not realise what the whole system was about until I came down here to get treatment for my problem," said Morgan Stensson from Sweden, who is in the city taking treatment for severe ulcer that he had been living with for the last ten years.

On treatment at an Ayurveda centre here for more than two weeks now, Mr. Stensson, who has no complaints about the strict diet that he has to follow, is looking forward to coming again next year with his family.

Mr. Stensson managed to get proper information about Ayurveda through an Indian Yoga teacher who is a faculty member at the Yoga and meditation centre that he promotes back home, south of Stockholm. He managed to discuss about his illness with the doctor through e-mail before packing his bag for his visit here.

Not everybody is lucky to have such detailed information, said B. Rajeev, Associate Editor of APTA, an Ayurveda journal by the Ayurveda Medical Association of India. He said that an 18-member French team had arrived here to know about Ayurveda but were wondering how to differentiate a curative Ayurveda centre from a spa or massage parlour.

The French team comprising industrialists, journalists, environmentalists and their families, who were on a tour in the State, had many queries after A.M. Anwar, physician and promoter of an Ayurveda hospital, gave a CD presentation on Ayurveda.

They wanted to know more about the curative possibilities of lifestyle disease through Ayurveda.

A few cases of eating disorders and depression had come from Germany, said Chithra Pradeep, a physician.

There are usually two types of tourists who arrive here, said Dr. Rajiv. Some like to know about Ayurveda and arrive here as part of a package while others combine their visit with a health-care package. Most of these tourists end up in five-star spas and massage parlours. There are also a few tourists who arrive here seeking genuine treatment, but the numbers are few, he said.

The Health Department, rather than the Tourism Department, should take up the awareness programme on medical tourism, said Dr. Rajiv. Accreditation of hospitals and treatment centres would provide a major step in curbing the issues related to unhealthy practice of Ayurveda, he added.

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