A Call for Medical Pluralism in America: Integrating Traditional Chinese Medicine and Western Medicine
Submission to the Friends of Fondren Library Undergraduate Research Awards, 2012
China has adopted a unique policy of medical pluralism, whereby traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and western biomedicine (WM) are both widely used in the health care system to provide optimal health outcomes to patients. Indeed, this fusion of traditional and western principles may seem contradictory, as there are fundamental differences in philosophy between TCM and WM. For example, TCM emphasizes the concepts of “Qi, Zang”, the “Yin-Yang” theory, “Shen”, and “Bianzheng lunzhi”. To the Chinese, health is viewed holistically, encompassing psychology, activity and diet. On the other hand, WM is much more concerned with intervention, focusing on the biological determinants of illness, and viewing health simply as the absence of disease. Despite these differences in theory, there are great advantages to combining TCM and WM, as illustrated in the successful integration seen in China since the 1950s. This integration improves health outcomes in chronic diseases. Furthermore, it also increases cost-effectiveness of health care. Finally, it meets an increasing demand for complementary medicine and cultural sensitivity. Indeed, research shows that the application of both TCM and WM in many cases would be more efficacious than the use of just one method alone. In the future, it is recommended that America combine TCM and WM through increased awareness of the benefits of medical pluralism and alternative medicine. Ultimately, Western practitioners should learn more about traditional medicine in organized settings such as medical schools, and be encouraged to accept new perspectives and philosophies about health care.