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The national debate about healthcare is often heated, and it brings up many conflicting opinions. My area of interest is the acceptance and integration of acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine into mainstream medical practice in the United States.

From my perspective, the trend for medicine in America is steadily moving toward integrative medicine. More and more, acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine are being recognized as an effective medical modality, both as an adjunct to Western medicine and as stand-alone therapy for many medical conditions.

Examples of acupuncture as an adjunctive treatment include treating side effects of chemotherapy, such as nausea, or increasing the successful implantation rate of in vitro fertilization procedures. The World Health Organization recognizes more than 40 health conditions for which acupuncture and Chinese medicine are effective treatments, including headaches, back and joint pain, sinusitis, insomnia, weight loss and addictions, and many more. A “blended” medicine, which integrates the best of East and West, is taking shape.

To support this statement, I will cite a few recently-published reports that provide evidence for this significant paradigm shift in healthcare.

The first report is “Integrative Medicine in America: How Integrative Medicine is Being Practiced in Clinical Centers across the United States.” Sponsored by the Minneapolis-based Bravewell Collaborative, this report states that acupuncturists and Chinese medicine practitioners are the most frequently employed practitioners at integrative medicine centers. In addition, acupuncture and Chinese medicine interventions are one of the most frequently prescribed interventions across the spectrum of health conditions. The report concluded that integrative medicine is now an established part of healthcare in the United States.

In the 2010 “Complementary and Alternative Medicine Survey of Hospitals,” conducted by the Samueli Institute, 42 percent of the hospitals surveyed offered complementary and alternative medicine services to patients or employees, and acupuncture was ranked as the second-most-popular outpatient modality among all complementary and alternative medicine modalities, after chiropractic.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine under the National Institutes of Health has developed a National Health Interview Survey, with the objective of measuring Americans’ use of complementary and alternative medicine. The 2007 survey was released in the report, “The Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the United States.” Twenty-one therapies were listed in the survey, including the Chinese medicine modalities of acupuncture, Chinese herbs, dietary therapy, Tai Chi, and Qigong, all of which are recognized as valid treatment modalities by the National Institutes of Health. Conditions for which complementary and alternative medicine modalities were most frequently used by adults included back pain, neck pain, joint pain and arthritis.

Now that scientific research has established the effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of these conditions, Western practitioners are increasingly disposed to refer patients for treatment.

These three surveys and reports reveal that acupuncture and Chinese medicine as an important component of integrative medicine is positioned for takeoff in the 21st century. The established medical system is adopting this new medicine into U.S. health care services to meet patient demand.

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Dr. Changzhen Gong, Ph.D., is the president of the American Academy of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AAAOM) located in Roseville, Minnesota. AAAOM offers a Master’s degree program in acupuncture and Oriental medicine. Changzhen Gong received his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota and his B.S. and M.S. from Shandong University, China. He is the president of the American Academy of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine and executive director of TCM Health Center. He has served as the chairman of the Continuing Education Committee of the Acupuncture Association of Minnesota. He currently serves as a board director of US-China Business Connection, advisory board member for the Integrative Health and Healing Program at Anoka-Ramsey Community College, and consulting member for the Pre-Acupuncture Program at Duluth Business University. Dr. Gong also serves as an editorial board member of Acupuncture Research, published in Beijing, as well as being an associate editor of the International Journal of Clinical Acupuncture, published in New York.

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