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China launches plan for traditional medicine in healthcare

Staff Writer |
China has unveiled a plan to place traditional Chinese medicine on equal footing with western medicine, Chinese Vice Minister for Health and Family Planning Wang Guoqiang said.

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Wang made the announcement while launching the first White Paper on traditional Chinese medicine, which cites several projects to develop this knowledge, exactly a year after practitioners Tu Youyou was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine, a first for the discipline.

Wang said this international honor, which comes alongside UNESCO’s recognition of acupuncture and moxibustion as intangible cultural heritage and conferring a place to the millennia-old compendiums by Chinese doctors in the Memory of the World register, have helped bring the discipline to a “historic moment.”

The white paper argues traditional medicine – which has sometimes been criticized in the West for lacking a scientific basis – has had a positive impact on the progress of civilization, and showed its utility in the fight against modern epidemics including Influenza A, HIV and SARS.

The document maintains that both Chinese traditional and western therapy have their strong points and can be complementary, and urges more cooperation between the two systems.

It says traditional Chinese medicine employs the trial and error method with different plants and substances, and is founded on eastern philosophy based on the concept of harmony.

The focus of this ancient healing system lies in prevention, and the Chinese who practice it do not necessarily reject Western medical science.

It is commonly seen that patients choose Chinese medicine for treating non-serious or chronic illnesses – for example, pain relief – but take recourse to conventional western medicine and methods for serious diseases, emergency cases, or surgery.

One reason may be that in a country with costly healthcare, ancestral medicine is usually cheaper.

“Traditional medicine emphasizes harmony, prevention and simple treatment for human diseases,” summed up Wang, stressing it has continued to innovate and strengthen its methods, and adapted itself to changing needs.

The white paper is part of the State Council’s Strategic Plan to develop China’s traditional medicine in the 2016-2030 period.

According to the paper, total of 3,966 hospitals nationwide are wholly dedicated to following this system, with 452,000 practitioners and 910 million cases examined per year.

Some 752,000 students are also studying at nearly 250 training centers, the majority of which combine oriental and western medical science.

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