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Oct
05

By Dr. Marina Ponton

Sixty years ago, when China faced a health-care crisis fueled by too many people to treat, too little money and too few doctors to provide care, the Eastern Asian country embraced its past, turning to acupuncture and Oriental medicine for answers.
Between 1949 and 1978, the average life expectancy in China increased from 35 to 68 years. Today, Traditional Chinese Medicine is a major component of China’s health-care delivery system where doctors are trained in the traditional methods of acupuncture and massage, as well as the diagnostic and surgical techniques of Western medicine. Treatments such as acupuncture, herb therapy and massage therapy account for around 40 percent of all health care delivered in China.

I’m aware that Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) doesn’t match the scientific model of the U.S. health-care system, and that many view TCM as alternative “folk healing” that often is considered only after conventional treatment options have been exhausted. But with health-care costs in the U.S. continuing to escalate, more and more Americans are looking for alternative answers to their health-care needs, realizing that one-size-fits-all medicine isn’t working.

For three weeks this past June, I worked alongside health-care professionals at Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine in China’s Sichuan province. Founded in 1956, Chengdu University is among the oldest TCM universities in China, with a hospital that houses a 5,000-square-foot herbal pharmacy and seven floors of outpatient care. My time at Chengdu confirmed that a fully integrated health-care system that improves the quality of care while decreasing its cost is attainable and sustainable.

Traditional Chinese Medicine differs from Western medicine by emphasizing patient education and preventive care, and by teaching patients how to take personal responsibility for their own health and methods of treatment. Culturally, the Chinese are more aware of their health, with the average person in China entering a medical facility as a knowledgeable patient.

The basic premise of TCM is that a body in balance has a basic immunity to health issues. You truly are what you eat, think and breathe. You are the lifestyle you lead. That’s why overall, the Chinese are a healthier people. They are taught TCM techniques as children and practice them throughout their lives.

A great example is chronic childhood ear infections are non-existent in China. Children are given herbal formulas from day one, which prevent their development. Frankly, the idea of surgery to place tubes in a child’s ears or giving children antibiotics long term is considered primitive and uncivilized to Chinese doctors.

While there are people with difficult diseases in China, they tend to respond better to care. There are far fewer instances of death from cancer in China, and when a case is terminal, those patients tends to live longer and have a better quality of life in the final stages. While in China, I met several nine and 10-year survivors of pancreatic cancer.

Traditional Chinese Medicine has been providing an uninterrupted system of prevention and wellness worldwide for thousands of years. It makes primary health care more affordable because it provides effective treatments for chronic and acute conditions at a fraction of the cost of Western medicine. For example, Chinese women who are having surgeries and receiving chemo for breast cancer, at the same time, are getting IV drips of Chinese formulas to mitigate the side effects for nausea, dizziness and fatigue rather than taking another pharmaceutical drug.

The U.S. system of health care has handicapped doctors. It has created the current crisis of unmet needs, virtually no preventive care, and mounting costs that cannot be supported. Americans are forced to decide among the most expensive health-care services in the world, with most insurance plans offering no option to choose natural health modalities such as acupuncture, herbal medicine, massage, diet modifications, and breathing and movement therapies.

I have many patients whose insurance will not cover their natural health treatments. However these treatments often lessen the need for pharmaceutical drugs or costly surgeries, and in some cases, eliminates it. Costs are offsetting and often reduced.

A bill has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives that would add acupuncture as a benefit covered under both Medicare and the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) program. The Federal Acupuncture Coverage Act would be an excellent start to an integrated system of care that prevents and treats illness rather than symptoms and side effects.

The basic premise of TCM is that a body in balance has a basic immunity to health issues. You truly are what you eat, think and breathe. You are the lifestyle you lead. That’s why overall, the Chinese are a healthier people. They are taught TCM techniques as children and practice them throughout their lives.
A great example is chronic childhood ear infections are non-existent in China. Children are given herbal formulas from day one, which prevent their development. Frankly, the idea of surgery to place tubes in a child’s ears or giving children antibiotics long term is considered primitive and uncivilized to Chinese doctors.

While there are people with difficult diseases in China, they tend to respond better to care. There are far fewer instances of death from cancer in China, and when a case is terminal, those patients tends to live longer and have a better quality of life in the final stages. While in China, I met several nine and 10-year survivors of pancreatic cancer.

Traditional Chinese Medicine has been providing an uninterrupted system of prevention and wellness worldwide for thousands of years. It makes primary health care more affordable because it provides effective treatments for chronic and acute conditions at a fraction of the cost of Western medicine. For example, Chinese women who are having surgeries and receiving chemo for breast cancer, at the same time, are getting IV drips of Chinese formulas to mitigate the side effects for nausea, dizziness and fatigue rather than taking another pharmaceutical drug.

The U.S. system of health care has handicapped doctors. It has created the current crisis of unmet needs, virtually no preventive care, and mounting costs that cannot be supported. Americans are forced to decide among the most expensive health-care services in the world, with most insurance plans offering no option to choose natural health modalities such as acupuncture, herbal medicine, massage, diet modifications, and breathing and movement therapies.

I have many patients whose insurance will not cover their natural health treatments. However these treatments often lessen the need for pharmaceutical drugs or costly surgeries, and in some cases, eliminates it. Costs are offsetting and often reduced.

A bill has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives that would add acupuncture as a benefit covered under both Medicare and the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) program. The Federal Acupuncture Coverage Act would be an excellent start to an integrated system of care that prevents and treats illness rather than symptoms and side effects.

Dr. Marina Ponton is an acupuncture physician who has been in private practice since 1999. She opened Greenville Natural Health Center in Greenville in 2007. She can be reached at info@greenvillenaturalhealth.com.

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