Minority medicines get more support

By Liu Li (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-12-09 07:26

China will accelerate the development of traditional minority medicine, a top official with the Ministry of Health said yesterday.

The remarks came after an official statement that traditional Chinese medicine was one of the best parts of Chinese culture and should not be excluded from medical and health systems in the country.

The statement, made by the Ministry of Health and the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine (SATCM), was in response to a call by some academics to abolish traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) from the country's medical system.

By the end of last year, a total of 15 ethnic groups including Tibetans, Mongolians and Uygur minorities had established 195 hospitals that treated patients with their minority medicines, She Jing, vice-health minister and director of SATCM told a national conference.

The gathering of Chinese minorities' medicine proponents was held on Friday and Saturday in Beijing.

She vowed to enhance the service capabilities of minority medical organizations and strengthen the training of ethnic professionals.

Furthermore, she said SATCM would establish a number of laboratories for Mongolian, Tibetan and Uygur minority medical research institutes.

She said she believed ethnic medicine was an inexpensive solution to treat diseases among minority people.

The medical fee for ethnic medical treatment was only half that of TCM hospitals and one third of Western medical institutions, according to She.

The central government invested more than 73 million yuan (US$9.35 million) from 2001 to 2005 on construction of minority medical organizations.

Local governments also strengthened investment in minority medicine.

For example, the government of the Tibet Autonomous Region invested nearly 80 million yuan (US$9.9 million) in expanding five Tibetan hospitals in the region.

The Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region also increased annual Mongolian medicine funds from 1 million yuan (US$123,000) to 20 million yuan (US$2.5 million).

The debate over the fate of TCM was started by Zhang Gongyao, a professor of philosophy of science at Changsha-based Central South University.

In early October, Zhang posted an article on his blog suggesting the government abolish TCM from the official medical system but still retain it as an unfunded, grass-roots service. He said TCM had too many unscientific components, high toxicity and uncertain therapeutic effects.

(China Daily 12/09/2006 page2)

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