Medical tourism in India is flying high. Estimated at $330 million in 2004, this figure is expected to rocket to $2 billion by 2012. These estimates set by the Indian ministry of tourism are based on foreigners arriving for heart surgery, bypass operations and other major treatments at India's high-tech hospitals. This excludes ayurvedic treatments done by small hospitals.
According to the WHO, chronic diseases are the major cause of death and disability worldwide. Both developing and developed countries are susceptible to this.
The rising trend of chronic diseases reflect a significant change in diet habits, physical activity levels, and tobacco use worldwide as a result of industrialization, urbanization, economic development and increasing globalization of food market.
Now, an estimated 177 million people are affected by diabetes. Out of this, two-thirds live in the developing world. More than one billion adults worldwide are overweight, and at least 300 million of these are clinically obese. People worldwide are consuming more foods that are energy-dense, high in sugar and saturated fats or even those excessively salty.
Scientific evidence is so strong that a change in dietary habits and physical activity can powerfully influence several of these risk factors in populations. Heart attacks and strokes kill about 12 million people every year. In addition, 3.9 million people die annually from hypertensive and other heart conditions. Up to 80 per cent of cases of coronary heart disease, 90 per cent of type 2 diabetes cases, and one-third of cancers can be avoided by changing to a healthier diet, increasing physical activity and stopping smoking.
Established scientific evidence gives that there are major health benefits in eating more fruit and vegetables, as well as nuts and whole grains, daily physical activity, moving from saturated animal fats to unsaturated vegetable oil-based fats, cutting the amount of fatty, salty and sugary foods in the diet and maintaining a normal body weight.
Almost all of the above health issues can be addressed through Ayurveda. Treatment of chronic disease like obesity, heart disease, diabetes, spinal disorders, arthritis, asthma, migraine, impotency etc play a vital role in Ayurveda.
According to Ayurvedic principles, chronic diseases arise out of a wrong way of life. These unhealthy lifestyle choices disturb the balance of 'vata', 'pita' and 'kapha' elements.
According to ayurvedic experts, this branch of medicine can help correct the imbalance of the elements, and thereby free the patient from chronic diseases. Ayurveda is a universal health care system, developed and practiced in India since 1,500 BC. The physicians or 'rishis' of yore preserved their findings on treatments for coming generations since 1,500 BC, on palm leaves. Such documents are still preserved for all to see.
Ayurvedic experts say that the Western medical system has failed to offer any effective curative treatment for chronic diseases.
For those who wish to know more about Ayurveda, help is at hand.
The website www.ayurveda-portal.com was designed by Joseph Kaduthanam, based at Germany. He can be called the man behind Ayurveda medical tourism. A documentary on Ayurveda treatment broadcasted in Germany in 1988 trigged off a boom in Ayurveda medical tourism to Kerala.
Ayurvedic proponents opine that it is high time the Government of India and the tourism department promote Ayurveda Medical Tourism to villages of India. This could be by offering financial help to Ayurveda doctors to improve facilities in their hospitals and resorts to attract guests from all over the world. This would not only improve employment opportunities in Indian villages, it would also generate more revenue than medical tourism to high-tech hospitals.
The story behind the ayurvedic portal is quite interesting. In 2004, Christina (a 15-year-old German girl), who had collapsed in her school was put on wheel chair for five months. As she got no medical help from German doctors, her father approached Joseph Kaduthanam who was known as an Ayurveda tour operator in Germany to inquire about Ayurveda treatment. After a week's search, Kaduthanam could suggest an Ayurveda doctor in a remote village in Kerala. After studying the case history Dr Sreekrishna from Nelluvai, Trichur agreed to treat her. After one week of treatment, the girl got control over her legs and started walking. After four weeks of treatment, she went back to Germany leaving her wheel chair in the hospital. Dr Sreekrishnma explained she had a viral attack in her stomach, which had attacked her nervous systems laming her legs.
Coming back to Germany, Udo Wirz, the father of the girl asked Kaduthanam to create a software method to give access to such an efficient treatment system for the outside world. This prompted him to develop a software and release the Ayurveda portal online.
The website provides the following functions:
· Consultation facilities with specialized panel of doctors.
· Education on Ayurveda: its history, principles—vata, pita kapha theory.
· Various treatment methods and herbal plants used.
· Search facility on Ayurveda hospitals, resorts.
· Online instant booking and payment gateway facilities.
· Global Ayurveda directory.
This portal is linked to more than 1,500 travel agents and 2,000 yoga centers, to promote Ayurveda medical tourism to India. It gives links to more than 3,000 organic bio-shops worldwide, so that patients after an Ayurveda treatment can continue their diet.
On July 29, 2007, the Ayurveda Hospital Management Association honored Joseph Kaduthanam as the brand ambassador of Ayurveda, a title he so deserves.