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)

INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE: THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS?

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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