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June 5, 2010

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TCM outreach in Changning District

Changning is the first district in Shanghai to implement a nationwide disease prevention program using traditional Chinese medicine. So far 18,000 residents have received TCM assessments to help prevent heart problems, diabetes and other problems. Victoria Fei reports.

An old Chinese saying goes: "Be mindful of possible danger in time of peace." It can also be applied to disease prevention. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as we all know.

China's earliest text on traditional medicine, "The Medical Classic of the Yellow Emperor" ("Huangdi Neijing") advised: "It is better to prevent beforehand than to treat afterward."

Changning District takes these sentiments to heart and is the first district in Shanghai implementing the national disease prevention program using traditional Chinese medicine.

It is reaching out to the communities in a TCM pilot project.

The project involves two hospitals, nine community health centers and 13 medical service stations providing free "preventive treatment" with a medical exam and report, analysis and doctors' advice.

Nearly 18,000 residents from nine communities, including Beixinjing, Zhoujiaqiao and Hongqiao, have received TCM assessments.

Most people seeking advice come out of curiosity about and interest in TCM, says Dr Zou Zhong, associate chief and TCM physician at Beixinjing Community Health Center.

To get an assessment patients first fill out a questionnaire to determine their body constitution -- there are nine types in TCM.

"Each person's constitution is influenced by congenital and acquired factors and varies from person to person. Constitution determines health conditions and life span," Zou says.

An assessment of body constitution will be printed out and a doctor will give advice on health maintenance, risk factors, and TCM herbal and other therapies.

One of TCM's basic diagnostic tools is listening to the sounds of the body, auscultation. This method is taken to a new level in this TCM community health screening program. A modern inspection system replaces the human ear.

A patient is asked to read several Chinese characters from a computer screen into a microphone and the sound is recorded. The characters represent five notes in ancient music -- gong, shang, jiao, zhi and yu.

"Each of these notes corresponds with one of the five elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, water) and five organs (heart, lung, spleen, liver, kidney)," Zou says.

"The pronouncing frequency can be a digital index for the performance of the five organs, from which TCM doctors can read one's health condition," he says.

This diagnostic process, as well as other tools, can identify the imbalances in body energy (qi) in meridians and collaterals, which are the passages through which qi and blood circulate.

It helps doctors make TCM prescriptions to maintain or retain balance for optimal health.

Zou recommends that people, especially those who are sub-healthy, receive a TCM assessment of the five zangs (organs) every three months.

"As much as 95 percent of white collars in Shanghai's central business district suffer imbalance in yin (cold) and yang (hot) energy in my estimation," Zou says.

The imbalance can be reflected in lack of energy, fatigue, neck and shoulder pain, throat discomfort, memory problems, headaches, drowsiness, insomnia, lack of concentration and other symptoms, he says.

"This makes yin-yang conditioning more urgent for city people," the doctor says.

In addition to individual assessments, the TCM outreach program offers regular community lectures on improving poor health, preventing chronic diseases, food therapies and simple TCM techniques that everyone can use.

Beixinjing Community Health Center

Address: 507 Songhong Rd

Hours: Monday-Friday, 8am-4pm

Tel: 1893-0538-988


Physical: well-built, robust

Psychology: pleasant, easygoing

Qi deficiency

Physical: weak muscles

Psychology: emotionally unstable, timid


Physical: thin

Psychology: introverted, unstable, depressed, fragile, sensitive, suspicious


Physical: somewhat overweight

Psychology: irritable


Physical: obese, soft and fat belly

Psychology: moderate, sober, courteous, friendly

Yang deficiency

Physical: plump, weak muscles

Psychology: quiet, introverted

Yin deficiency

Physical: slender

Psychology: brash, outgoing, restless, lively

Blood stasis

Physical: slim

Psychology: easily upset, impulsive, forgetful

Special intrinsic quality

Physical: congenital deformity or physical defect

Psychology: depends on specifics


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