Chinese medicine is one of the oldest continuous systems of medicine in history, with recorded instances dating as far back as 2,000 years. This is in sharp contrast to the American or Western forms of healthcare, which have been in existence for some 150 years. However, the origin and development of the profession of Chinese medicine in the United States has occurred only in the last few decades. In its early stages, the profession established the certification, accreditation and licensure structures to move the profession forward.
This goal has been largely achieved as reflected in the adoption of licensure laws in virtually all states, the recognition of holistic healthcare as a viable modality in the U.S. and the growing number of third-party payers that offer insurance coverage for Chinese and East Asian medicine treatments. The National Institutes of Health recognize the usefulness of acupuncture in treating addiction, fibromyalgia, headaches, cramps, back pain, osteoarthritis, carpal tunnel, asthma and much more.
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In January 2014, the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) reported that there were approximately 30,000 licensed acupuncturists in the U.S. In addition, the majority of U.S. medical schools now offer courses on complementary medicine as well. NCCAOM reported that there are roughly 8,500 students in training as acupuncturists in more than 60 accredited programs or schools in the U.S.
Alternative healthcare is seeing a jump in patient visits, partially due to a growing awareness of the importance of staying healthy to be happier and ward off illness before it starts. In the United States, there is increasing public awareness of and demand for complementary medicine, including Oriental medicine. According to the “Deloitte 2008 Survey of Health Care Consumers,” 20% of consumers report treating a health problem with an alternative approach to conventional medicine such as acupuncture, while 40% indicate that they are open to doing so in the future.
Reflecting this public demand, the number of the nation’s insurers covering acupuncture treatments almost tripled between 1992 and 2001, rising from 5,525 to 14,228 and the budget of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, (a part of the National Institutes of Health), exploded from $2 million in 1993 to $114 million in 2003. According to a nationwide government survey released in December 2008, approximately 38% of U.S. adults aged 18 years and over and approximately 12% of children use some form of CAM.
Overview and Outlook of the Profession
- National Association of Advisors to the Health Care Professions (NAAHP) profile of acupuncture profession
- Explore Health Careers – overview of acupuncture and Chinese medicine profession
- Council of Colleges of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine – Overview and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) about the acupuncture profession