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October 2021

Am J Chin Med. 1980 Winter; 8(4): 313-30.

Many ways to health: a study of 2,000 rural and urban Taiwan families.

Wu AC, Hu YH.

Over two years the authors led a massive, government-supported survey of 2,000 Taiwanese families, half urban and half rural, to determine what actions the family would take when faced with disease or health problems. The major alternatives of folk healing, Chinese traditional medicine, and Western-oriented approaches were found to be frequently combined, and often supplemented by self diagnosis and self-medication. Thirty Chinese students entered the 2,000 families' homes for lengthy interviews covering a wide range of socio-demographic variables as well as medical behaviors. Cooperation of informants was outstanding, and the plentiful data from this large sample should provide ample ground for future studies and interpretations. The statistics substantially documented some findings suggested by earlier researchers: (a) that 90% of Taiwanese families combine a variety of approaches in warding off and treating illnesses (1); (b) that there is somewhat higher reliance on purely Western methods among young urban nuclear families, and among mainland-born Christians, than in the rural areas (2); and (c) that Taiwanese families avoid bringing mental health problems to medical or psychiatric health facilities (3). The statistics bear out some fairly predictable conclusions, such as: (a) Western medical methods are known and used more widely in the city than in the country (cf. "a" below); (b) there is more ignorance of facilities and medicines of all kinds in the country than in Taipei; and (c) traditional Chinese medicine is somewhat more used in the country than in Taipei. In addition, some fairly startling new developments are worth noting, including that (a) there is less rural/urban difference than expected--97-99% use some Western methods at some times; (b) while almost no one relies solely on folk healing, more city-dwellers use it (as well as massage and acupuncture) than do rural folk; and (c) urban families often go to private doctors, ignorant of their local public health stations.

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