As I begin to write this column, I am starting to observe the upswing of the wellness revolution. This is happening in the U.S., as well as in other countries. I am asking myself several questions about the traditional medicine profession and I want to know what you think. Are we ready to be a key part of this movement? What do you think are the issues facing this profession? What is the most important issue to be challenged first? I am asking you to respond from wherever you are in the world and let us face these issues together globally, as a profession. After we gather this information, put it in some form and prioritize it, we will be giving you feedback on what others think and believe; what are our challenges; and how we can begin to face and conquer them.
I am going to share some of the issues I have heard around the world. Most of the issues are relevant to the U.S., but I believe traditional medicine providers from other countries can help us solve some of our pressing issues. When prime issues are identified, the profession can begin to discuss them with openness, honesty and trust, and in turn, create solutions.
What are some of the issues that have been identified as areas of concern and merit further discussion? These are not in any particular order of importance:
- In the U.S., we are looking at higher levels of education as we begin the doctoral programs, as well as the discussion of "entry-level doctorate" programs. This brings into discussion how students are going to pay for this education. Student loans have steadily increased over the past few years. Students are graduating with loans in excess of $100,000. This presents problems for students who graduate, pass all of their exams and try to begin to open a practice. The repayments on these loans are due on a monthly basis and create a financial drain on the practitioner. I believe this profession must begin to address the issue of some form of student loan forgiveness. Do you have a student loan? How much do you owe? How big is your payment? Are you currently in practice?
- What are practitioners going to do when the baby boomer patients turn 65, retire and are on fixed incomes? Will they be able to pay cash for the services you provide? The profession should begin to look at supporting the Medicare bill. The bill is in Congress again and this time, we have fewer sponsors than last year. The leading edge of the baby boomers is turning 65 in approximately four years. This seems to be an important issue and should be considered by the profession.
- I wrote about the issue of regulation in all 50 states and that there are eight states presently without licensing guidelines. Other states are having issues where other professions are trying to encroach on the scope of practice of acupuncture practitioners. Sometimes this is done with little or no training.
- The U.S. presently is involved in a war in another country. We have lost more than 3,000 young American lives. Just as important are the young men and women returning home with aches, pains and serious injuries. These military personnel are depending upon the Veterans Administration to take care of their injuries and future health issues. Pain is one of the major health situations of returning veterans. In fact, one out of every American suffers with chronic pain. This profession can help and we must let people know. This profession should and must be able to treat our American veterans, and be paid. This would include care both in and out of the veterans' hospitals. No other profession is better able to deal with chronic pain than acupuncture providers.
- We must focus on public relations and marketing to the population of the U.S. There is a population of approximately 300 million in this great country. Yet the acupuncture profession only serves about 9 to 10 percent of the population. We have a responsibility to let every person know about the benefits of this medicine.
- The National Certification Commission of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine has been utilizing the services of Echo Media Group to help spread information about this profession. The American public has seen acupuncture on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" and "Grey's Anatomy," and in numerous newspaper articles in Alabama. Don Snow, OMD, in Louisiana, just received the first license in his state.
- The Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine have been educating their member colleges as to current issues that are affecting or going to affect this profession. They recently met in New Orleans and listened to a speaker on the recent FDA regulations that will go into effect in three years.
What is the strength of this profession? I have written on several previous occasions about the unity in this profession. What will it take to get this profession moving together to solve the issues and concerns that face practitioners? The American Bar Association and the American Medical Association present one face to the state and national law makers and the public. Our profession presents many faces and this tends to confuse those we are trying to persuade to support this medicine. The acupuncture profession has created the face of one national association. What do you need to do to support it? How can it help to position this medicine in the integrative setting for the future? Why is this necessary? We are in this profession to serve patients and their health needs.
We have a need for research is this country, both small studies and large projects. The profession knows this medicine is effective, efficient and less costly. There is a need to be able to demonstrate this and use the information to educate people about what this medicine can do. Currently most patients are seen at the end of their care. The information created through research can help move this medicine into the forefront of wellness and prevention - a place where it belongs.
Thank you for reading and thank you in advance for responding with your ideas and opinions.
Click here for more information about Marilyn Allen, Editor-at-Large.