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TCM to Revolutionize Nation's Health Care
More work is to be done so that traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) can play a greater role in improving the health of millions of China's rural people, said a leading TCM official.

Various organizations and individuals, both from home and overseas, are being encouraged to open more privately run TCM hospitals in the countryside, particularly those western and remote poverty-stricken areas, She Jing was quoted as saying.

She, director of the State Administration of TCM, made the remarks at a national TCM congress which opened yesterday in Beijing.

At present solely invested foreign hospitals are prohibited from being opened in China, with foreigners only permitted to establish jointly-invested hospitals, according to the Ministry of Health.

Various incentives including lower taxes, will be offered to those who, in the future, set up TCM hospitals in the rural areas where the vast majority- nearly 900 million - of China's people live.

By the end of the 1990s China lifted the ban on the establishment of private hospitals both in urban and rural areas. However, business has tended to invest its money in the more prosperous, better-developed areas.

By contrast, most rural and remote areas continue to suffer from serious shortages of fair and reasonable medical services and medicines.

China's rural populace, 70 per cent of the nation's total, has access to just 20 per cent of the country's medical resources. This startling imbalance is partly a result of the high levels of poverty and high cost of medicines, especially Western medicines.

The majority of Western medicines produced in China over the past 20 years were foreign patents, which partly explains the reason for the high prices that have long existed.

Many rural people in China have no more than a few dollars a year to spend on health care.

As a medicine on which the Chinese people have for hundreds of years depended, TCM has unique advantages, including its lower price and the fact that it is widely recognized in the countryside, Health Minister Zhang Wenkang told the congress.

Local government has also sought to encourage existing TCM hospitals in urban areas to expand their service to rural areas.

(China Daily January 14, 2003)

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