The Global Initiative for Traditional Systems of Health was created in 1993 at the headquarters of the Pan-American Health Organisation in Washington, DC, to bring into policy focus the importance of traditional (indigenous) medicine in the daily lives and health care of the majority of the population of most emerging economies.  

At the same time,   the growth of complementary medicine – now often termed ‘integrated’ or ‘integrative’ medicine – is well documented in industrialised countries, where half or more of the population regularly use some form of integrative medicine, including practices grounded in the world’s traditional medicine systems.  

For almost a quarter of a century, GIFTS of Health has worked to bring into policy and research focus the public health importance of traditional and complementary medicine to the people of all nations.  


Between 1993 and 1995, GIFTS was headquartered at the National Museum of Health and Medicine, Washington D.C.  Subsequently, GIFTS moved to the University of Oxford - initially the Department of Dermatology and then Green College, University of Oxford (now Green Templeton College).   Initial funding was from the US National Institutes of Health, Office of Alternative Medicine (now the National Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, NCCAM).  

In addition, early funding was received from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Canada, the World Bank, the Ford Foundation, the Commonwealth Foundation, and a number of British foundations including the Smith Charity and the Glendinning Foundation.   

Subsequent World Health Organisation funding spurred the creation of the WHO Global Atlas of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicine.  Most recently, through the Department of Primary Care Health Sciences at Oxford University, EU funding has been received for GIFTS-related work in training African scientists in research methodology, ethics and intellectual property issues.