What is ITD-HST?
The Institute of Trans-disciplinary Health Sciences and Technology (ITD-HST) is an innovative University. The University is focused on the modernization of India's healthcare in the 21st century by bridging, in an epistemologically informed way, the traditional health science and practices of India, with western sciences and technology. The University has two central purposes. Firstly, lowering costs and enhancing access, quality and reach of healthcare to millions. Secondly, creation of transformative knowledge and making original Indian contributions, to the world of medicine and life sciences.
The institute was legislated into an autonomous State University by the Karnataka Legislative Assembly on 14th February 2013 (Karnataka Act No 35 of 2013) The term Trans-Disciplinary is defined in the Act as "the interface of any of the Indian traditional health sciences with other systems of knowledge including; biomedicine, life sciences, social sciences, engineering and management studies".
1. New health seeking behavior of global citizens:
All over the world there is evidence of growing public demand for introducing healthcare choices, based upon best knowledge and practices, drawn from different healthcare systems. In India we see this trend reflected in the actual health seeking behavior of communities wherein people seek to combine or choose for different health conditions Allopathy or Ayurveda, Siddha, Swa-rigpa, Unani, Homeopathy or Yoga or a combination. For emergencies and surgery Allopathy is the first choice, for common ailments it is Ayurveda, Sidha, Yoga, Unani, Swa-rigpa or homeopathy, for chronic conditions it may initially be Allopathy and then a rebound to AYUSH, when there is insufficient relief. While the Indian public exercises pluralistic choices, the Indian Medical Councils remain insulated from the health seeking behavior of citizens. India is perhaps the only country where Medical Councils have ruled for a licensed medical practitioner, that any form of integrative medical practice, even to a limited extent is illegal.
2. The big current deficit in healthcare coverage:
Unbiased observers of the healthcare scenario in India recognize that in the 21st century innovative knowledge and strategies are required to achieve universal coverage in primary healthcare. The current effective reach of State sponsored health programs dominated by Allopathy is estimated to be around 30% of the population and 69% of health expenditure of average households, even today, is out of pocket. The Western medicine based model of primary healthcare has thus had limited success despite huge investments in flagship programs like NRHM of UPA-1 and 2. New models for community health, is therefore one of the key areas for intervention. In India new models can be designed based on integration of Allopathy with the cost-effective use of over 6500 traditionally known medicinal plant species distributed across ecosystems and highly sophisticated non-drug, health traditions including yoga.
3. At the frontiers of knowledge, the limitation of singular approaches:
The limitations of singular health knowledge systems at the frontiers of medical and life sciences are being recognized. These limitations arise due to the reductionist theoretical frameworks of science that has scope to only partially understand biological phenomena. Despite the remarkable insights into biology, the gap in the understanding of life processes at the macro level remains incomplete. Even today, drugs discovered go through a path of expensive clinical trials, with unpredictable outcomes. This suggests that our understanding of life is still in its infancy and intelligent ab initio design of therapy is currently elusive. It is tempting to suggest here that the approach of modern medicine which starts at molecular level and progresses towards building systems, now referred to as Systems Biology, and the traditional medicine's holistic approaches will intersect fruitfully if expertise and research are managed carefully leading to sustainable solutions to managing health. Trans-disciplinary research, bridging Indian and Western sciences is an opportunity to innovate and develop new paradigms for solving contemporary problems.
During the last decade, the potential of trans-disciplinary research in health sciences is already beginning to be demonstrated. The pioneering work of linking the Ayurvedic phenotypes to genotypes has opened up huge possibilities for new understanding of human physiology, new design strategies for drug development, early detection of diseases and differential schemes for clinical management. Similarly in the context of community health, it has been demonstrated that the anti-microbial action of the simple traditional advice for storing drinking water in copper vessels is probably the world's cheapest solution for purification of drinking water. In the context of management of chronic diseases, a recent pilot clinical study from Pune published in Rheumatology (Oxford) 2013 and another study sponsored by NIH, USA have concluded that the systemic, holistic management of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) based on Ayurveda, is as effective as the best biomedical treatment and has lesser side effects. The work of IITs on classical herbo-mineral-metallic preparations called bhasmas, reveal that when bhasmas were prepared by these reputed institutions, in exactly the way prescribed in Ayurvedic texts using rudimentary, home scale technologies, the finished product delivered by the traditional manufacturing process was seen to be efficacious and of nano particle sizes. It was further observed that such micro particles as were produced through traditional technology could not be easily reproduced through conventional chemistry tools and procedures. Many more examples can be cited about the potential and scope of such Integrative research. Some of these integrative research programs if pursued consistently and boldly have the potential to create new paradigms in modern science, technology and medicine.
“To revitalize Indian Medical Heritage”
1. Low cost solutions for millions in Primary Health Care
2. New contributions to the world of medicine and biological sciences
The university has two central goals viz:
1. Design and demonstration of affordable, accessible & effective strategies for health security of communities.
2. Creation of new knowledge in health sciences through trans-disciplinary research in basic, clinical, pharmacological, pharmaceutical and social sciences.
It also has 2 supplementary goals:
i. Design of innovative and scalable strategies for Conservation and sustainable use of natural resources (flora, fauna, metals and minerals) used by India’s medical heritage.
ii. Training of high quality human resources at doctoral, PG, UG levels and including rural and urban schools, households and grass-root community workers, in selected dimensions of traditional knowledge and Trans-Disciplinary Health Sciences and Technology using as feasible the ICT platform for global reach.