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From the Editor's Desk

By Marilyn Allen, Editor-at-Large

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The Need for Standards

ISO-TC-249: You may look at these letters and numbers and wonder what they are and what they might mean. They turn into: International Standards Organization- Technical Committee – 249. There is a global organization called The International Organization for Standardization. ISO is the world's largest developer of voluntary international standards with a current portfolio of more than 19,700 documents providing benefits for business, government and society. The network of ISO is composed of 163 countries. The ISO is a global business entity with a core mission to establish global standards that will be used in the areas of quality, ecology, safety, reliability, compatibility, interoperability, efficiency and effectiveness – at reduced costs. Countries around the world purchase these standards to implement them.

The healthcare industry is one of the world's largest and fastest growing sectors in the global economy. Acupuncture is the fastest growing section of medicine. The practice of this medicine participates in the world of service and commerce. Focusing on this consideration, there are topics that are being discussed in the process of creating standards. The Technical Committee 249 is working on the standards for individual herbs, herbal formulations, needle manufacturing, as well as other medical devices and terminology. All of these areas will help to add credibility to the profession and practice of acupuncture.

This entire process of establishing standards to be used both nationally and globally is a very complex process. In the United States, there are many agencies, government bodies and healthcare businesses asking about standards in and for the acupuncture profession. The short answer is that these national standards do not exist.

Based on the events that just transpired with the California Acupuncture Board voting to adopt the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine examination to be used in addition to a supplemental California exam ,we have created a national standardized base from which national standards can be developed. This is a milestone in the history of acupuncture in the United States.


The short and simple answer is so that we all talk the same language and we have a set of criteria to which we hold ourselves accountable. It should be the highest level of proficiency and accountability for the profession. Standards define our work at the highest level of performance. They are used to communicate our profession among and between ourselves and the community/public.

Acupuncture is both a service and a business of commerce. The ISO definition of service is "result of at least one activity, necessarily performed at the interface between the supplier and customer that is generally intangible." The standards help to communicate the profession and what the medicine does. Standards improve the promotion and visibility of the profession and the medicine. Standards are used to conduct case studies of services and share success stories to demonstrate the benefits. Standards are the link between the services and products.

A standard is a measure of the quality and quantity of goods and services. A standard is the criteria set by a representative group of all levels of a of an organization to show proficiency of all levels of learning or skill in a profession. A standard is developed by all levels within the profession to show proficiency toward excellency. There must be an intent to develop consistency among members of the profession within the nation.

The writing of standards is a process. It is a learning experience and one that is rewarding in the end when the projects demonstrate proficiency and excellence. The acupuncture profession is growing, coming of age and taking its place in the healthcare arena of the United States. I challenge you to get involved with you state association and participate in the challenges of creating an outstanding place for acupuncture and Asian medicine in the America.

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