SINGAPORE - While Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is complementary to mainstream medicine in Singapore, it can play an important role in meeting the healthcare challenges of the Republic's ageing population.
The principles of TCM and its approach to disease prevention and management hold the potential to do so, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong on Sunday (Oct 23).
"Acupuncture, for niche areas like pain management and stroke rehabilitation, is now available at public hospitals, an important step to a more holistic approach to patient care," said Mr Gan, giving an example.
He was speaking at the International Conference for the Modernisation of Chinese Medicine, held at the Suntec Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Mr Gan said that by 2030, more than one-fifth of Singapore's population will be over 65 years old, and about a quarter of Singaporeans aged 40 and above will have at least one chronic disease.
"Our ageing population will not only mean a heavier chronic disease load but also one with increased complexity," he added.
He said TCM has the potential to help meet the healthcare challenges of an ageing population.
But with the rising demand for TCM and higher patient expectations, Mr Gan noted that the professionalism of the field must be raised, to boost its safety and efficacy.
"Accumulating evidence-based research is key for TCM's continued development to reach the goals of better quality, safety and efficacy, and further contribute to Singapore's healthcare," he said.
In that regard, the Ministry of Health has set aside $3 million for TCM research.
The focus of research, Mr Gan said, should be on conditions which are prevalent in Singapore, such as chronic diseases. TCM professionals can work alongside medical colleagues to improve patient outcomes.
The minister said research will help healthcare providers and the public make more informed decisions and provide clinically-proven, cost-effective TCM treatment to serve healthcare needs more efficiently.
The integration of three important aspects - education, clinical practice and research - is essential in the modernisation of TCM, he said.
Speaking at the conference, World Health Organisation director-general Margaret Chan said the sustainability of health services is a concern around the world, and one way to reduce the burden on health services is TCM.
Dr Chan said TCM has pioneered interventions like healthy and balanced diets, exercise, herbal remedies and ways to reduce everyday stress.