A Difference between West and China- Health Maintenance

Maybe it is because of its rich history (3,000+ years) and a medical tradition of almost the same length, Chinese people are more aware of health and the majority of the population have some basic understanding on medicine, particularly Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It is not uncommone to see a senior Chinese lady making comments on someone’s red face and oral ulcer that “he is suffering from Fire flaring upward”, and advise him to “eliminate the Fire”. In fact, Chinese TV broadcast, as well as social media, is inundated with health maintenance programs that are particularly popular among the elderly.

Part of the reason for such more widespread medical knowledge stems from the fact that TCM is a medicine originated more from philosophy than science, which was non-exitent in the ancient past; actually Modern Medical Science did not emerge until beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century, and gained its greatest development in the early 20th century, e.g. after WWII. For example, 30% of deaths were still due to infection at the end of the 19th century; but this figure had fallen to less than 4% by the end of the 20th century.

Therefore, a Chinese patient have better chance of understanding a TCM physician because certain philosohpical concept of TCM is well familiarized among the masses, such as Yin and Yang, Qi and Blood, Cold and Heat, etc. For example, the ‘Fire’ mentioned in the above case is a very well-known concept. On the other hand, a typical Western patient may find it difficult to comprehend, not to mention communicate with a WM doctor. For one thing, it is unlikely that he would even understand the sbstruse terminology uttered from the doctor’s mouth. In sharp contrast, it is not a rare scene that a Chinese patient argues with a TCM physician regarding diagnosis and treatment of his disease, because he thinks he too, knows a thing or two about TCM.

The upside of the relatively easy-to-understand nature of TCM is people are hence more aware of their own well-being, specifically what to do to maintain their health, and what factors or life style to avoid. In fact, almost every adult in China could speak of some regiment they know or hear from media or friends and family that may actually work well if executed, not to mention those who pay particular attention to health maintenance and would know a lot more than average people.

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