Traditional medicines in modern societies: An exploration of integrationist options through east asian experience

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 28 (3):373 – 389 (2003)
Abstract
Modern scientific medicine is increasingly challenged by complementary and alternative therapies. Reviewing policy options for contemporary healthcare development, the World Health Organization's first global strategy on traditional and alternative medicine, released in May 2002, advocates integration. However, experience in East Asia, the only part of the world where state of the art modern scientific facilities are commonly found alongside thriving traditional practices, reveals that medical integration can take several forms. To clarify the available policy options, this article categorizes those forms, identifying three types of integration (unification, equalization and subjugation), plus one type of non-integration (marginalization). It marks out a zone of balanced healthcare development that cuts across two of the integrationist types, and comprises non-discriminatory state treatment of separate but linked sectors of traditional and modern medicine. The article closes by exploring arguments for and against locating state policy in this zone, and holds that policy should be situated here for medical practices that can meet broadly acceptable professional standards, demonstrate an existing social demand, and generate an adequate supply of medical practitioners, possibly through some state subsidy.
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