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October 2021

BMJ. 1997 Jul; 315(7100): 115-7.

Health in China. Traditional Chinese medicine: one country, two systems.

Hesketh T, Zhu WX.

Centre for International Child Health, London.

China is the only country in the world where Western medicine and traditional medicine are practised alongside each other at every level of the healthcare system. Traditional Chinese medicine has a unique theoretical and practical approach to the treatment of disease, which has developed over thousands of years. Traditional treatments include herbal remedies, acupuncture, acupressure and massage, and moxibustion. They account for around 40% of all health care delivered in China. The current government policy of expansion of traditional facilities and manpower is being questioned because many hospitals using traditional Chinese medicine are already underutilized and depend on government subsidies for survival. Research priorities include randomised controlled trials of common treatments and analysis of the active agents in herbal remedies. As more studies show the clinical effectiveness of traditional Chinese medicine, an integrated approach to disease using a combination of Western medicine and traditional approaches becomes a possibility for the future.

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