TCM explored to fight chronic disease globally

Updated: 2016-10-31 11:28

By Lia Zhu in San Francisco(China Daily USA)

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US and Chinese health experts have joined hands to explore traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) as a health promoting approach to reduce the worldwide burden of chronic disease and add to new knowledge about well-being at the community level.

In a long-term project launched by the Stanford Prevention Research Center and the Chronic Disease Research Institute at Zhejiang University, the researchers are combining TCM assessments with data collection from 10,000 participants in Hangzhou to test strategies to improve and maintain well-being.

The reason to promote well-being is because the health care system focuses on negative events rather than promoting positive attributes, said Ma Xiaoguang, associate professor of the Chronic Disease Research Institute at Zhejiang University.

"A focus on the well-being of the whole person is central to Chinese culture and TCM," Ma, a key researcher of the project, told China Daily at a summit held by SPRC's Wellness Living Laboratory (WELL) on Thursday. "Quite a number of Stanford researchers are studying TCM now."

"Compared to Western medicine, which emphasizes disease diagnosis and treatment, TCM stresses problems that may occur before the symptoms and signs of disease," said Randall Stafford, a professor of medicine at Stanford and director of its program on prevention outcomes and practices.

"This emphasis on what people can do to keep themselves healthy fits very well with a prevention mindset and stresses the importance of individual action to promote and maintain wellness," said Stafford, who co-leads a project called "WELL-China".

TCM can be used to highlight the importance of chronic disease prevention and can be combined with more traditional public health approaches, he said.

"For example, we tell people to reduce their blood pressure to lessen the chance of having a stroke. A modified approach would emphasize motivating people to take action to promote a sense of wellness right now," he explained.

According to Ma, the cohort of 10,000 participants will be recruited in three strata - the first 3,000 have been recruited and another 3,000 multi-generational family and friends of the first stratum will be enrolled nine months later. In the third stratum, 4,000 online participants will be recruited for online survey modules.

For the first 6,000 participants, 50 of them will be interviewed on a daily basis for TCM diagnosis and collection of biometrics, bioassays, blood storage and other stored samples.

Ma said this project fits well with China's new health plan "Healthy China 2030", which makes prevention the key to health challenges caused by industrialization, urbanization, an aging population, environmental pollution and changes in life style.

"China has about one-fifth of the world's population and offers a great source of solutions to health and environmental issues," said Zhu Shankuan, founder and director of the Chronic Disease Research Institute at Zhejiang University and co-leader of the project,"China's efforts in chronic disease prevention will not only have a direct impact on the global efforts for needed solutions but also serve as an example for many developing countries to follow,"he said.