By Dr. JUVENCIO F. ORDOÑA, MD, MHA
This was the speech of Dr. Ordoña at the completion ceremony on Traditional Chinese Medicine held on July 17, 2010, at the Nursing Ampitheater A of the College of Nursing. Dr. Ordoña, a 1969 graduate of the UERM College of Medicine (and a 1963 graduate of Preparatory Medicine from UE Manila), is the Director General of the Philippine Institute of Traditional and Alternative Health Care (PITAHC). The ceremony was a joint project of the UERMMMCI Graduate School and the AcuHerb Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
I WISH TO EXPRESS MY THANKS TO THE FACULTY for inviting me again to speak before you on another momentous occasion like this. About a year ago, in a similar event, I talked about the realities on the delivery of health services as they are occurring in the rural areas and the hinterlands, and, just as well, in the metropolis. I also talked about the role that traditional medicine will play along with the orthodox allopathic medicine that we have come to embrace. We tried to justify the existence and patronage of traditional medicine to the economic condition prevailing in our country. But these reasons are hardly acceptable and we need to come up with solutions that are within our grasp.
In a survey conducted in Northern Luzon more than two years ago, we found that the best vital health indices were in a small rural and economically depressed community as compared to all the areas in the same region. It was also found out that this municipality has the highest number of traditional healers on a healer-to-population ratio. The investigation has linked up the good health situation to these phenomena. But I must admit that more investigations must be conducted to validate our assumptions.
Last year, I mentioned that 70% of rural folks go to a traditional healer, and traditional healers abound even in Metro Manila. We were surprised to learn that they consulted not only for common illnesses but also for very serious ailments and even for catastrophic conditions. I feel sad that this is happening and I could only surmise that we may be in a very serious situation.
When we have a high MMR and IMR, which are very sensitive indicators of our state of health, and when women and infants could not receive medical assistance of whatsoever during childbirth and the postpartum period that endangers the life of the mother and child, then we have another serious problem. This will be the situation unless we are able to train skilled attendants at birth and during emergency obstetric cases.
When traditional healers tend to fill this vacuum, then we have a serious public health concern because this is hardly an ideal situation. Traditional medicine will always be available to us but this cannot replace the wonders of modern drugs and medicine that are unfolding before us. It cannot substitute for the emergency measures that are available in our institutions that could spell the difference between life and death. And this is the failure when a country cannot provide adequately the modalities of Western medicine, which we have learned to accept.
As I talk about these realities, we must also think that the concomitant consequence to this reality is the inadequacy of health care where they are needed most.
Now, I would like to extend my congratulations to all of you for your efforts in going through these studies. Your task is only beginning, with the expectations that you will continue your studies as you go through employing the various procedures that you have learned.
I say congratulations, because traditional medicine practice will now be carried out by trained and accredited practitioners who will perform an ancient, culturally respected and useful art of compassionate care and healing. I will now feel comfortable that our countrymen's health will be in the hands of practitioners who could discern what is right and wrong. And we expect you, as individuals, to know the boundaries and limitations of your responsibilities.
It is a well-known fact that traditional medicine advocates preventive health care, thus we are looking at the DOH program on Primary Health Care as borne by the Alma Ata declaration of health for all. Within this context, Traditional Medicine and Western Medicine can blend harmoniously and complement each other, taking cognizance of the best features in each system.
Traditional medicine has definitely a role to play in our primary health care program, and this is where we can fit in comfortably.
Ladies and gentlemen, may I inform and remind you that we are the first country in the ASEAN to come up with a law on Traditional Medicine. Today, many of our ASEAN neighbors have successfully brought the two systems together, each one complimenting the other, while we are still in the initial stages of recognizing traditional medicine. In those countries, traditional medicine and allopathic medicine work hand in hand in the management of the same cases, with everyone taking an active role for the patient's welfare.
It is for this reason that we at the Philippine Institute of Traditional and Alternative Health Care, encourage everyone to subject our procedures to scientific formulations and researches so that we may be able to legitimize our ways.
The public has been easy enough to be exploited with so-called natural/herbal products where everyone says that it is good, safe and effective for any kind of disease. But you and I know that these assumptions could hardly pass the scrutiny and standards of the scientific community. To justify, they hide behind the cloak of dietary supplements' "no approved therapeutic claims". And every Pedro, Juan and Juvencio peddles these as gospel truth.
Now the question arises as to reasons for the sharp rise in the patronage of traditional medicine. Medical care in the modern world has become highly specialized. We have lost the patient-doctor relationship in the past that made doctors empathize with those of his patients and also his families. We have identified our patients as mere case numbers rather than treat them as individuals who seek our compassion so they would be relieved from suffering and pain. We have become like an automotive assembly line where body parts are being managed by somebody with great expertise. This is not an indictment of the present system.
When I was a young resident in a general hospital in the rural areas, all the doctors were general practitioners, and that included me. I was aware of my limitations and inadequate as a non-specialist but I compensated this with good beside manners, where I spent a lot of time talking to patients and their relatives. You can term this as "TLC", where our nurses are all experts. And modesty aside, I became the most sought-after physician in the area. Either for my expertise or talkative manners, I leave that for you to discern.
A paradigm shift is now taking place where patients are looking for a more compassionate individual whom they can relate to in a very personalized manner. There is now an increasing popularity of traditional modalities and this quest ends in the doorstep of traditional healers or in the practitioners of complementary medicine.
Today, it is not only the poor segment of our country that patronizes traditional medicine but even the higher income groups and well-schooled sectors of society. This has made complimentary medicine a multimillion-peso industry; this is even expected to increase with all the TV ads on dietary supplements, where natural products are sold as the panacea for all kinds of ailments which we do not even approve of. These are some of the dangers looming ahead of us because they could not present evidence that could stand scientific scrutiny.
Ladies and gentlemen, there is much to learn about traditional medicine, which we are slowly losing in the Philippines. Countries like China and India are rich grounds of information on traditional medicine. Their documentations are a goldmine of information that could assist us in the management of non-communicable diseases like diabetes, cancer, heart ailments, mental illnesses that could relate and has something to do with the environment and our present-day lifestyle.
Traditional medicine has a long history dating back to hundreds of years or even thousands of years, well-documented in China but with a very short period of recognition in the Philippines. Sad to say, we have inadequate systems of verifying evidence compared to those of Western medicine standards, which make the practitioner of allopathic medicine concerned about our methods' legitimacy.
Traditional medicine, with its holistic approach that also include diet and chi-gong exercises, could be utilized and complement our orthodox methods of treating many other conditions or illnesses. Finally, I urge you to expand your acquired information by keeping your judgment open to the methods employed by our forefathers and subject them to intensive examination, so that our Western partners will dismiss their skepticism to our method of treatment.
Thank you and good day.
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