The benefits of alternative practices such as yoga and naturopathy are polarising topics in the scientific and medical community and more research is needed in these areas, say experts. However, there is an increased interest in these topics at the Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences (RGUHS).

Much to the surprise of officials, this 2017-18 academic year, the university received proposals from medical researchers to study naturopathy and yoga. While in the 2016-17 academic year, there were no proposals in these fields, this year it stands at 11. For the first time, four proposals for research in homoeopathy have been submitted. Interest in ayurveda, however, has dropped from 87 to 39 during the same period.

Another area where research scholars have expressed interest is nursing, which has more than doubled from 11 proposals last year to 26 this year, and physiotherapy at 6.

Together, interest evinced in yoga, ayurveda, homoeopathy, naturopathy, nursing and physiotherapy accounts for 28% of all proposals received by RGUHS this year. This is the highest number of proposals received in these fields since the inception of the advanced research wing of RGUHS in 2014.

G.S. Venkatesh, Director of Advance Research at the university, acknowledged that research in naturopathy and yoga is gaining momentum. “Researchers are looking at these fields as there is a huge demand. People are particularly looking at naturopathy and yoga to help them cure diseases where stress can act as trigger. These include diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, neurological illnesses,” he said, adding that it is heartening to see a rise in demand for research in the field of nursing.

“People in this field [nursing] are the ones who are in constant touch with patients. Their observations can help a lot in understanding why some people are responding to treatment while others are not,” said Dr. Venkatesh. Commenting on the interest in alternate practices, Shalini Rajneesh, Principal Secretary (Health and Family Welfare), said: “For ages, certain remedies have been yielding very good results. It has been passed from generation to generation. However, when it comes to evidence-based medicine, the allopathy side always contests that we cannot guarantee whether it will work or not. So we need to gather clinical research data and then take it people with without any contradiction or controversy.”

T.A. Veerabhadraiah, member, Karnataka Medical Council, welcomed the move as there is little or no research in these fields. “There is no supportive evidence to prove how treatment in these fields would help the patient and why a patient should chose this treatment. With more research, patients can be advised to choose the treatment in these streams as per the protocol,” he said.

Dip in money

However, despite the huge demand for research, the amount of money spent on it has been declining over the years at RGUHS. For the 2016-17 academic year, ₹3.76 crore was spent on advance research, which is a decline compared to ₹6.24 crore in 2015-16. Official sources in RGUHS, however, defended this stating that their focus was now on funding quality research studies rather than creating an environment for stimulating research.

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