Traditional Chinese Medicine Gets Partial Thumbs Up from World Health Organization

Jun 7, 2019

For the first time, the World Health Organization formally recognized Traditional Chinese Medicine. TCM has a 2,000 year history and, in the last decade, it’s become mainstream in this country and abroad. 

Joy Yang practices Traditional Chinese Medicine at EHE Clinic in the research center,Blacksburg, VA
Credit Kurt Holtz

The Chinese population in Montgomery County, Virginia is around 6 percent. But the thirty, or so, people at this healing workshop in Blacksburg are from all cultures and back grounds.  People are using MOXA sticks, which they light and hold near pain points on their bodies.  Many in the group say they do this regularly with great results, no prescription or conventional over the counter pain killer required.

Calli Rowland was a nutrition foods and exercise major at Virginia Tech. “It’s really blown my mind how I think that some of the western med stuff that’s just prescribe, prescribe is so skewed.”

Dr. Joy Yang gives these workshops and treats patients in the New River Valley. Educated in China, both her parents are doctors there.  She says, in China medical education is one-third western medicine and two-thirds Traditional Chinese Medicine.  She came to Virginia Tech to become a professor, studying education and landscape architecture, focusing on creating ‘healing’ landscapes and healthful environments.  Soon she integrated her education into the practice of Chinese Medicine and opened a clinic in Blacksburg in 2016.  Yang says her work is all about bringing balance and harmony back to the body, which can get out of whack for any number of reasons.

Here's what she say is different about TCM, compared to western medicine,“We use your self-healing ability.  We don’t force (things) to change.  So, the progress is probably slower than western medicine.”  But, she says, TCM does more than just heal one aspect of the body.  It addresses and heals the whole body. “In Chinese medicine, we say everything is caused by the heart.” But the heart signifies something a bit different in eastern medicine. "It’s like the leader of an orchestra” and if it gets out of ‘tune’ it can affect many aspects of the body.

“In western medicine it’s the physical organs.” Says Yang. “In Chinese medicine it’s more about the function of the organs.  In Chinese medicine the heart is not just the physical heart but also including your mind, your feelings."

Last Week, the World Health Assembly added TCM to its "International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems" or ICD. 

W.H.O. says the inclusion of Traditional Medicine (TM)  is not an endorsement of the scientific validity of any TM practice or the efficacy of any TM intervention, but a tool for counting, and comparing TM conditions. The chapter provides the means for doing research and evaluation to establish efficacy and safety of TM. 

Traditional medicine diagnosis in many countries around the world is currently not at all or poorly documented and reported. Hence, aggregated and international comparable data on TM encounters in terms of form, frequency, effectiveness, safety, quality, outcome and cost is not available

Having a Traditional Medicine (TM) Chapter in ICD will:

•       enable counting of traditional medicine health services and encounters and measure their form, frequency, effectiveness, safety, quality, outcomes and cost nationally and internationally.

•       international comparability of practice, research and reporting of morbidity in traditional medicine. 

•       digitization of TM diagnoses data will facilitate integration into Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems.

•       joint use of ICD-11 TM Chapter and other ICD-11 Chapter  can enhance adverse-event reporting and enable integration of TM into insurance coverage and reimbursement systems, in line with larger WHO objectives relating to universal health coverage.

•       link Traditional Medicine practices with global norms and standard