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From China to Africa: The same impossible synthesis between traditional and Western medicines

By Gilles Bibeau

Abstract

I will question in this paper the relevance of the Chinese medical model for African countries which are in the process of designing new health care delivery systems. With most of the authors who have discussed the question, I agree that this model constitutes a radical alternative model worthy of examination in itself without considering its actual implementation in the People's Republic of China. Therefore, I consider this model as a model and I will not be concerned in this paper about the degrees of success that the People's Republic of China government has had in turning this alternative health care model into reality. Everybody knows that the so-called Chinese medical model is built around four guiding principles: (1) the health programs must serve the workers, peasants and soldiers; (2) the chief emphasis must be placed on prevention; (3) strong cooperation between doctors of Western and traditional medicine must be developed; and (4) the public health tasks must rely on mass movements. In this paper, I will limit the discussion to only one aspect of the whole model: the official use of traditional practitioners, and I will question more generally the place of traditional Chinese medicine in the PRC's medical care system. Other innovations--the concentration on the common diseases of the majority, the use of mass line in prevention, the development of new types of health worker and the recourse to intermediate technology are of the greatest interest but these various features of the Chinese model, though central, are not fully analyzed in the following pages.

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