Does Traditional Chinese Medicine Matter?

Does Traditional Chinese Medicine Matter? Medical Choices of Rural Diabetic Patients in Changsha, China

Author: Xiaoyue Mona Guo, B.A.1, Shuiyuan Xiao, M.D., Ph.D.2

Author Affiliations:

1Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT USA

2Department of Social Medicine and Health Management, School of Public Health, Central South University, Changsha, Hunan, China

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Corresponding Author: Xiaoyue Mona Guo

Key Words: Traditional Chinese Medicine, Health-seeking behaviors, Rural China, Diabetes



Introduction: With an aging, urbanizing population, China is home to the world’s largest number of adult diabetics. Although more diabetic patients currently live in cities, the prevalence of pre-diabetes is greater in the rural population due to changing dietary and physical habits, as well as the relative poverty. This demographic is thus an important target for public health intervention. As Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is viewed in China as useful for treating chronic diseases and widely accepted, we sought to explore its use for rural diabetic patients.

Methods: The study population included 63 diabetic patients and two village doctors from four rural villages near Changsha, China. An initial survey was orally conducted with all 63 participants to collect demographics, financial situation, health-seeking behaviors, treatment beliefs, and medical expenditure. Three focus groups of six rural patients each were subsequently held at village health centers. For analysis, questionnaire data was summarized using means and standard deviations or medians and quartiles. Focus group sessions were voice-recorded and transcripts were coded for thematic analysis.

Results/Conclusions: Questionnaire data revealed that for the majority of participants, seeing a doctor is costly in terms of time and money. Patients often do not have the luxury of choosing their medical provider. Despite the benefits of TCM, its slow speed and cumbersome preparation methods do not fit a need for immediate results. Furthermore, TCM doctors are not as available or accessible as Western medicine doctors. As such, although 20% of rural patients rated higher trust in TCM than WM, no patient solely used TCM for their treatment. Instead, almost 40% of patients try to use both TCM and WM. Village practitioners similarly believed that although diabetes treatment should go towards integrative treatment, TCM’s development is hindered by its slow onset and inconvenience coupled with a more systemic lack of TCM infrastructure and research in China. In summary, the continued trust that rural patients place in TCM supports further research for better understanding the true economic, social, and health benefits of having combined TCM-WM treatment be part of diabetes standard of care.

Published on date: March 2016

DOI: 10.15404/msrj/03.2016.0004

Citation: Guo X, Xiao S. Does Traditional Chinese Medicine Matter? Medical Choices of Rural Diabetic Patients in Changsha, China, Medical Student Research Journal (2016). doi:10.15404/msrj/03.2016.0004


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