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Govt Gives TCM Shot in the Arm

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) will play a key role in realizing the national goal of providing every Chinese citizen with access to basic medical care, a senior health official said yesterday.

Wang Guoqiang, vice minister of health and director of the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine (SATCM), made the remarks at a three-day workshop in Beijing over the weekend.

The workshop was held to mark the 20th anniversary of the foundation of the World Federation of Acupuncture-Moxibustion Societies, which is dedicated to the global promotion of TCM.

The government aims to establish a national TCM network by 2010, covering both rural and urban areas, Wang told the workshop.

In cities, the government will enhance the TCM network service by improving healthcare systems and equipment and employing qualified TCM practitioners at special TCM hospitals, TCM departments in general hospitals and in community clinics, Li Daning, deputy director of SATCM, told China Daily.

In the new cooperative rural medical services, TCM will be integrated into the general medical care and disease prevention, which is now mainly carried out by county-level medical institutions, Li said.

In two years time, all clinics in rural towns will establish TCM departments to ensure farmers enjoy easier access to the service, Li revealed.

As a whole, the time-honored medical science will serve at least 30 percent of all healthcare needs across the country, Wang concluded. Currently, the figure is less than 20 percent, according to official statistics.

There are now 500,000 qualified TCM personnel in 3,009 TCM hospitals, including general hospitals at county level and above, according to figures from the Ministry of Health.

The government has always attached great importance to TCM, as was embodied in the strategy of "treating Chinese and Western medicine equally, and developing TCM," which was announced in 1982.

The World Health Organization (WHO) echoed the initiative by highly recommending its member countries to integrate traditional medicine into their national healthcare systems.

"Despite the fact that TCM is still considered by many Westerners to be a 'mysterious oriental therapy', or merely an addition to Western medicine, the WHO spares no efforts in spreading it simply because it has been proved to be a safe way to treat diseases," said Dr Choi Seung-hoon, the organization's TCM regional adviser.

(China Daily October 22, 2007)

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