Traditional medicine attracts converts, says survey

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 March, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 16 March, 1998, 12:00am

The image of traditional Chinese medicine being mostly used by the elderly was challenged yesterday by a survey which showed more than half were young and upwardly mobile.

A Hong Kong Council of Social Service survey found more than 60 per cent of clients were aged between 25 and 44. Only 8.5 per cent were elderly patients above 65.

Monthly incomes for 73.4 per cent of those interviewed were more than $10,000, said Baptist University assistant professor in social work Victor Wong Cheong-wing, who conducted the survey.

His team interviewed 400 randomly chosen traditional medicine customers.

He said its growing prestige was a factor but the findings were mainly the result of economics.

'No government service or medical insurance covers Chinese medicine and you have to pay out of your own pocket,' he said.

'The economics of the situation means young working people can afford it, but not the poor elderly who are most in need of medical services.' Dr Wong said the Government needed to integrate traditional medicine into the overall system to promote alternative medicine for the elderly.

Hong Kong University's associate professor in social work Law Chi-kwong agreed its growing popularity meant the Government would have to regulate the practice.

The number using traditional medicine rose from 8.6 per cent in 1992 to 10.5 per cent in 1996, said the Census and Statistics Department.

Laws are being drafted to set up a Traditional Chinese Medical Council next year.

It will serve as a governing body to register and monitor more than 7,000 traditional Chinese doctors by 2000.

Only Tung Wah and Pok Oi hospitals offer free traditional Chinese medical service.