Infectious diseases remain major causes of ill health among poor people. Almost 3 billion people live on less than US$ 2 a day, and they continue to be at the greatest risk for these diseases. How can this be possible when global health funding is increasing and new drugs and other health tools are being developed?

The Comptroller and Auditor General has said there was an acute shortage of medical professionals in government medical colleges.

According to this WHO annual report on tuberculosis, India has recorded about 63,000 cases of notified multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) in 2010, the highest in the South East Asia region.

The alarming new trend of asking patients to undergo surgery they could do without

The demands of traditional Asian medicine (TAM) don't just pose a threat to the survival of tigers and rhinos (Nature 480, S101–S103; 2011). Numerous smaller species are also at risk, as a result of being traded in large volumes. (Correspondence)

Traditional plant-based remedies are not risk-free. Doctors and patients need to be informed about the possible side effects, says Masatomo Sakurai.

The very nature of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) poses serious challenges in patenting intellectual property. Unlike modern medicines, which are based on newly discovered, developed or isolated chemical compounds, TCM prescriptions typically consist of mixtures of well-known plant or animal extracts. Moreover, these recipes are public knowledge, having been recorded in ancient books, and are therefore ineligible for patents in areas where a compound's novelty is a prerequisite.

Systems science can provide guidance in capturing the complementary approaches to healthcare, says Jan van der Greef.

Although modern medicine is established in Asia, traditional medicine also plays a big role in people's healthcare — and is gaining in popularity in other countries too.

The concepts of Asia's traditional medicines might sound alien to Western ears, but some of them are starting to evolve to fit scientific investigation.