How TCM can play a part in Healthier SG, as explained by Ong Ye Kung


Much has been said about Healthier SG and its focus on preventive care. 

In his closing speech at the Healthier SG debate in Parliament on October 5, Minister for Health Ong Ye Kung emphasised that the Government is looking at how Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can complement Healthier SG.

TCM is very strong in preventive care, said Minister Ong, who used the example of a Chinese saying: 养生三法:“饮食有节、起居有常、不妄作劳”。

The translation? There are three key aspects to health: To eat in moderation, have a healthy daily routine, and not to over-exert body, heart and mind.

In Singapore, many people are accustomed to western medicine, which is vastly different from TCM, with different histories, courses of evolution, and complete holistic systems. 

“Western medicine is about research, clinical evidence, efficacy, safety data. Drug treatment can be approved and is tightly regulated by law. TCM is passed down from generations, culturally and traditionally, and they trust the herbal medicine, not clinical evidence.”

In this regard, the regulation that Singapore imposes on western medicine should not be replicated for TCM, said Minister Ong, who added that self-regulation is more appropriate, although it has to be strengthened.  

But there are small areas of commonality between TCM and western medicine too, he explained. 

“In the area of preventive health, Western medicine and TCM share a common understanding that early management of risk factors and disease can stave off problems and complications later in life.”

It is also his hope that by being part of Singapore’s preventive care strategy, TCM will share hospitals’ load.

But TCM will not replace Western medicine, he added, as they are two separate systems.

For example, Western doctors will profess they won’t know how to balance the five elements of a human body.

“And if you ask a TCM doctor: This patient needs a life-saving urgent operation, can you replace it? He will say: No, go for the operation. Most TCM practitioners will say that too,” Mr Ong said.

“So I think they respect each other’s space, strengths and weaknesses.”

Already Singapore is doing more in the area of TCM. 

The health ministry recently finalised the succession plan of the Chairman of the TCM Practitioners Board and established two workgroups, to work on issues such as enhancing TCM clinical training and improving career development.

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