Community Health

Sienna with local Amchi

Tibetan Medicine and Traditional Healing

Tibetan medicine has been practiced throughout the Himalaya and Tibetan Plateau for centuries. Presently, this healing tradition is undergoing intense changes. Tourism, out-migration, development programs, government health policies, and market forces have all deeply affected the lives of local doctors (amchi) and community health.

DROKPA is helping communities in the Himalaya and Tibet improve the availability and quality of health care in their villages, and safeguard the future of Tibetan medicine. By fostering productive alliances between traditional and modern systems of knowledge, supporting local clinics and medical colleges, and informing regional and local public health policy, DROKPA can, with your help, contribute to the health and well being of communities in the Himalaya and Tibet. For more information about Tibetan Medicine, see DROKPA's Links page

Himalayan Amchi Assocation

DROKPA partners with the Himalayan Amchi Association (HAA), an NGO based in Kathmandu, Nepal, that draws its membership from among the 14 northern Nepali districts that border Tibet and India. The HAA is also networking with traditional doctors practicing in Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, Ladakh, Sikkim, and Dharamsala.

HAA's program goals include: improving the quality of medical care in remote mountain areas; improving governmental recognition and support of amchi; cultivating and harvesting medicinal herbs in a sustainable manner; creating educational opportunities for amchi; networking with individuals and organizations in Asia and the West interested in Tibetan medicine.

DROKPA assists the Himalayan Amchi Association in fulfilling its mission by granting support for amchi education and training opportunities, assisting with networking, grantwriting, and organizational development, as well as support for the HAA's Kathmandu-based clinic, which opened in 2003. DROKPA is working with member amchi in the creation of medical curriculums, lobbying the Nepali government for support, and helping to connect amchi in Nepal with practitioners of Tibetan medicine throughout the greater Himalayan and Central Asian region.

The HAA has also collected biographies, conducted interviews, and gathered clinical, economic, and pharmacological information from each of the more than 100 member amchi from Nepal. Many of the HAA member amchi are also involved in the WWF/ UNESCO People and Plants Initiative, a conservation and development project in Dolpa District, Nepal.

The HAA has held 4 national workshops of amchi (2001-2004) and one international workshop (2004), offered 3 consecutive refresher training courses for more than 90 amchi from remote areas of Nepal, and published four booklets based on the results of these workshops, in English and Tibetan. These books have been distributed to member amchi, as well as other amchi organizations in India, Bhutan, Tibet, and Mongolia. In coming years, the HAA hopes to help establish colleges of Tibetan medicine in Nepal, and to continue supporting research, training, and educational opportunities for amchis, aimed at improving both the status and future of the tradition, as well as the health of local, high mountain communities.

Lo Kunphen Mentsikhang and School

DROKPA helps to support the Lo Kunphen Mentsikhang and School in Lo Monthang, Mustang District, Nepal. Lo Kunphen is educating Mustang's next generation of healers. Lo Kunphen's principal objective is to provide younger generations of Lobas with formal education in traditional Tibetan medicine, in addition to offering a curriculum of English, Tibetan language, Nepali language, and math. Brothers Gyatso and Tenzin Bista oversaw the construction of the Lo Kunphen Mentsikhang and School, which has received primary institutional support from a British NGO called Kids in Need of Education, KINOE. The school was inaugurated with its first class in 2000. The school session runs for eight months of the year in Lo Monthang, along with a two-month winter session in Pokhara, Nepal.

Lo Kunphen also hosts one Lo Monthang-based medical clinic and medicine-making factory, for which it has a government license, as well as three branch clinics in the villages of Tsarang, Kimling, and Chosher, in Upper Mustang. These clinics not only serve the local communities, but also function as sites of practical, clinical apprenticeship for Lo Kunphen's senior students. For more information about the Lo Kunphen clinics, see the 2005 Annual Report.

The Lo Kunphen Mentsikhang and School is working hard to promote a positive vision of what the future for Lo Monthang can be. But the school needs ongoing support, not only to see this first group of students through their initial training, but also to continue to provide clinical training and support, as well as medicines themselves, in the future.

Local Amchi Associations in Nepal

Since 2003, DROKPA has also granted support to local amchi associations in Dolpo (Panzang and Saldang branches) and Mugu Districts, Nepal. The Mugu Amchi Association and the Dolpo Amchi Association represent regions that are both remote and where amchis' abilities to produce medicines for local use are affected by the current civil war, and the increasingly lucrative commercial trade in medicinal plants.

Trans Senge-la Amchi Association

The Trans Senge La Amchi Association is a collective of amchi from one region of Ladakh. With the help of a French organization, NOMAD, this association of doctors is providing villagers critically needed health care and educating the next generation of amchi in this remote region of the Indian Himalaya. The Trans Senge La Amchi Association, in collaboration with NOMAD, has also created an innovative community health insurance system. Every household contributes Rs. 100 and receives free medical care for the clinic, which is open five days a week.

This Association, along with other amchi associations throughout Ladakh, are building medical clinics, conducting amchi workshops and educational centers, and contributing to the "Trans-Himalayan Amchi Medical Educational Newsletter." This newsletter is made available to the amchi throughout the diverse regions of India, Nepal, and Tibet-China, and hopes to create a transnational bridge between the physicians of Tibetan medicine. Beyond medical education, this newsletter is a symbol of unity. It expresses the importance of sharing knowledge and keeping this medical practice alive and vibrant into the future.

DROKPA's support of the Trans Senge La Amchi Association has allowed for the creation of a rotating endowment fund which the amchi will use to help purchase herbal ingredients that are not available locally, but that are critical to the production of efficacious, proper amchi medicine.