Commentary: TCM’s role in Singapore’s healthcare continues to evolve, but will it lose its traditional roots?

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SINGAPORE: If you live in Singapore, there is a good chance you’ve encountered more than one style of medicine. You’ve most likely been to see a conventional medical doctor at a polyclinic or private hospital at least once in your life. There’s also a good chance you have also seen some kind of alternative or traditional medical practitioner.

In fact, about half of Singaporeans have visited a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner in the past, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said in 2022. The Ministry of Health (MOH) is also looking at how TCM can play a role in Healthier SG’s preventive care initiative.

Singapore’s medical landscape is pluralistic and multicultural, just like its population. TCM and Western medicine have co-existed alongside one another for many years, yet they have never been fully integrated.

Some recent moves, like the new Chinese Medicine degree offered at Nanyang Technological University - the first such programme to be conferred locally in Singapore - as well as a new structured training programme by MOH that will see selected TCM practitioners go through clinical rotations, may change that.

File photo of a person undergoing acupuncture. (Photo: iStock)


What does it mean for two systems of medicine to be integrated?

In its ideal form, integrative medicine seeks to combine Western medicine with traditional, complementary and alternative therapies for a more holistic healthcare system.

Proponents argue that this benefits patients by increasing the range of choice and allowing them to tailor treatment to their needs and values. Integrative medic...

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