Conceptualizing the integration of traditional and complementary medicine in health systems

Patients, policies, professions and providers

Authored by: Vincent C. H. Chung

Routledge Handbook of Global Public Health in Asia

Print publication date:  April  2014
Online publication date:  April  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415643825
eBook ISBN: 9781315818719
Adobe ISBN: 9781317817703


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The term ‘traditional medicine’ covers a wide range of therapies and practices which can vary across countries. In some cultures, the term ‘complementary medicine’ is used interchangeably with traditional medicine. The generic term ‘traditional and complementary medicine’ (T&CM) is used by the World Health Organization (WHO) to avoid geographical variation [1]. 1 T&CM denotes a broad set of healthcare practices that encompass all health systems, modalities and practices, and their accompanying theories and beliefs, other than those intrinsic to the politically dominant health system of a particular society or culture in a given historical period [2]. The use of the phrase ‘politically dominant’ in this definition denotes that an incompatibility exists between the holistic paradigm of T&CM and the paradigm of bio-medical (conventional) medicine (BM) [3]. Commonly used T&CM are listed in Table 41.1 [4]. Despite their epistemological differences, T&CM has long played a role in many of the world’s health systems, alongside BM, and has remained popular to this day [5].

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