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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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Oct
05

It may, according to a new review published by the Cochrane Collaboration, an international nonprofit that analyzes health care information.

The review, which looked at results of two randomized studies of Chinese herbal medicine involving 158 women, suggested that Chinese herbs may provide better relief of pelvic pain and other symptoms than one of the prescription drugs normally used in the West, Danazol.

Endometriosis occurs when tissue from inside the uterus escapes to other parts of the body. Outside the uterus, this tissue is seen as “foreign’’ by the immune system, which means that the body mounts an inflammatory response that can cause pain and scarring.

In the review, researchers at the University of Southampton in England found that Chinese herbs – which were not specified and which typically vary from patient to patient in Chinese medicine – were better at relieving menstrual pain than Danazol, a testosterone-derived drug, and were also better at shrinking endometrial masses. They did not prove better for other types of endometrial discomfort, such as rectal pain.

Dr. Aaron Styer, a reproductive endocrinologist at the Massachusetts General Hospital Fertility Center, noted that in the West, the first line of treatment for endometriosis is birth control and other hormonal drugs, which suppress secretion of estrogen by the ovaries. Although the Chinese herbal study is not conclusive, he said, “if a patient has not done well with traditional therapy or doesn’t want to proceed with it, she should investigate these approaches more completely, as long as there’s no potential health risk of taking these herbs.’’

Dr. Hope Riccotti, clinical director of obstetrics and gynecology at the Dimock Community Health Center, cautioned that “herbs are drugs and drug interactions can be dangerous,’’ which makes it important for women to tell their health care providers if they are taking these herbs.

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May
04

BEIJING, April 30 (Xinhua) — To eat pork or not to eat pork, that’s the question for many Chinese consumers as swine flu, or the H1N1 influenza epidemic, spreads globally.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has raised its level of pandemic alert from phase 4 to 5, indicating that a pandemic is “imminent.” The virus is suspected of killing more than 150 people in North America.

Although the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), as well as Chinese health officials, have said there is no proof the flu virus is found in pigs or can be contracted through eating pig meat or other pork products, the disease has nevertheless cast shadows over China’s pork market.

MIXED FEELINGS

In central Henan Province, one of the country’s leading swine exporters, vendors have felt the chill.

“Normally, I sell about 130 kg pork everyday at this time of year,” said Feng Jianwei, in Zhengzhou, capital of Henan. “But business has slumped.”

Feng’s daily sales average 100 kg pork. “I believe it was affected by the swine flu,” he said.

The H1N1 influenza epidemic also threatens the economy of the southwestern Sichuan Province, which is recovering from the devastating earthquake in May last year.

When survivor Wang Jiawen borrowed money from his neighbors to buy two piglets to raise in May, the farmer never expected flu could dash his hopes of a new beginning.

“Now I just hope that I can break even,” Wang said.

“The pork price has fallen amid the global financial crisis and pig raisers in Sichuan cannot afford another hit,” said Lan Jianming, vice head of the Sichuan Provincial Animal Husbandry and Food Administration.

“With the possible further development of the H1N1 influenza epidemic, the fortunes of Sichuan’s pig industry may worsen,” he said.

A similar situation could be seen in the market of Nanchang, capital of the eastern Jiangxi Province.

Pork prices have dropped by about 10 percent at the city’s Bayiqiao market, but that still failed to lure cautious consumers, vendor Deng Shen said.

However, fish and chicken are gaining popularity at the market.

“I won’t consider buying pork in the near future, though no swine flu cases have been reported in our country,” shopper Wu Qinghua told Xinhua.

“After all, it won’t affect my health even if I don’t eat pork. I can choose chicken or fish,” he said.

But not all consumers are pessimistic.

At the Yongchang market in Changchun, capital of northeastern Jilin Province, residents were seen thronging the pork stands Thursday afternoon.

“It sells very well today, better than normal,” vendor Jiang Lihui told Xinhua. “I think it’s because the May Day holiday is coming and people need more pork for celebrations.”

Shopper Guan Shaoshan said he had no special feeling about swine flu.

“Of course I will cook the pork before eating it in case of infection. On the other hand, I know the government is taking preventive measures,” he said.

Nationwide, the swine flu outbreak has not affected pork markets significantly, according to a Xinhua-operated monitoring system on prices of the country’s farm and sideline products.

The supply and sale of pork were normal, and pork prices showed no big fluctuations despite a slight fall Thursday.

The sales volume in some provinces dropped to different extents, but the upcoming May Day holiday again spurred pork sales, the monitoring system shows.

In Guangzhou, capital of southern Guangdong Province, most consumers interviewed by Xinhua expressed optimism and confidence.

“Pork is a daily necessity for my family. We won’t eat less pork just because of the swine flu outbreak in other countries,” resident Guan Jian said.

“But for the sake of safety, I only go to supermarkets to buy pork now instead of crowded outdoor markets,” he said.

GOV’T MOVE

Although China has no reported human-infected H1N1 cases, Health Minister Chen Zhu told reporters Thursday that the possibility of the virus entering the country could not be ruled out.

He said China had developed an effective method for the instant diagnosis of possible H1N1 infection, and the new detection method would be available at disease control and prevention offices across the country.

The Health Ministry has issued and distributed a guideline for diagnosis for H1N1 and its variants to health departments nationwide, mandating local authorities to train medical personnel as soon as possible.

It has also published a self-protection manual on its website for the public, who are expected to participate in group activities in the upcoming May Day holiday.

The manual, in Chinese, details the basic preparations people must take before joining tours and urges them to maintain good personal hygiene.

The State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine also asked all local health authorities to involve traditional Chinese medicine experts in the health emergency responding teams in order to take full advantage of traditional remedies.

Customs posts across the country have been told to conduct strict checks of imported pigs and pork products, especially those from countries and regions affected by swine flu, the General Administration of Customs (GAC) announced Thursday.

Products without valid quality certification will be banned from coming into China. At the same time, the GAC urged customs at all levels to crack down on the smuggling of pork products.

Meanwhile, the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) has ordered greater market supervision of domestic pork markets.

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