Speech by Mr Chee Hong Tat, Senior Minister of State for Health at the Book Launch of “Pursuing the Elixir of Life: Chinese Medicine for Health”, 2 February 2018

A very good afternoon to all of you.

I am happy to join all of you at the launch of Pursuing the Elixir of Life: Chinese Medicine for Health, co-written by Professor Hong Hai and Ms Karen Wee. The new book explains the principles of ancient Chinese methods of health and the practice of yang sheng (??), or health cultivation.

2 With an ageing population, the incidence and complexity of chronic diseases is likely to increase as chronic diseases are more common with age. While nobody can live forever, we can increase our chances of longevity through an active lifestyle involving healthy eating and regular exercise. The tradition of yang sheng is based on these principles. Its approaches to disease prevention and management can play an important complementary role in addressing the healthcare needs of our population, across all age groups. For example, with proper instruction, exercises like taijiquan (???) and qigong (??) can help Singaporeans to stay active and healthy.

3 Many TCM practices are derived from anecdotal evidence and medical case studies, as well as wisdom and experience accumulated over many generations. We can supplement these knowledge with scientific evidence and research, and by finding appropriate ways for TCM to complement Western Medicine. This is why books like Pursuing the Elixir of Life are useful, to explain the intricacies of TCM diagnosis and therapies, complete with detailed descriptions of treatments and practices such as acupuncture and tuina. Research on TCM can provide the public with important information on which TCM therapies have been proven safe and effective, and empowers consumers to make informed decisions. It helps to advance knowledge and improve the safety and efficacy of TCM treatments.

4 The Ministry of Health and the TCM community recognise that evidence-based research is key to TCM’s continued development, and contributes to better outcomes for patients. To date, MOH has supported a total of nine collaborative research projects between public healthcare institutions, TCM institutions and institutes of higher learning under the TCM Research Grant.

5 One of the research projects is a study by the Pain Management Centre of Singapore General Hospital, comparing the effects of electro-acupuncture[1] versus conscious sedation among patients undergoing egg retrieval for In-vitro Fertilisation (IVF). This study found that both sedation and electro-acupuncture were effective in controlling lower abdomen pain. In addition, the study found that patients in the group which underwent electro-acupuncture had a shorter recovery time and were less likely to experience low blood pressure as a potential side effect of sedation. These are interesting findings, and I hope the study can encourage more Western doctors and TCM practitioners to work together on such collaborative projects.

6 Of the four newly awarded proposals under the second grant call held last year, two projects have commenced their research. One of them investigates the effects of acupuncture on the activity of brain cells in patients with Parkinson Disease, while another is a trial of a novel collaborative care model where a TCM physician in the management of patients with Axial Spondyloarthritis. MOH will be starting the third grant call in April 2018 and I hope our healthcare institutions and TCM practitioners will continue to participate actively and contribute to advancing TCM research in Singapore. In particular, we hope to see research proposals focusing on traditional therapies such as TCM tuina, a non-invasive treatment widely used by many Singaporeans to manage common musculoskeletal conditions like sprains and frozen shoulder. Research on therapies targeted at promoting health, preventing diseases and improving patient outcomes, can provide useful evidence for wider application in the future.

7 Besides research, it is also important that our TCM practitioners continue to upgrade themselves professionally to stay relevant. Last year, I announced that MOH will establish a $5 million TCM Development Grant to strengthen capability development in our TCM industry. The grant is now open for application[2] by TCM practitioners and TCM allied healthcare workers. So please make good use of this grant to further deepen and upgrade your knowledge and skills. I also encourage our TCM service providers to apply for the grant and incorporate the use of IT technology to support research, improve productivity and enhance patient services.

8 Let me conclude by extending my congratulations again to Prof Hong and Karen on their new book. I wish everyone good health and happiness in the new year, and much success as we pursue our elixir of life. Thank you.

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[1] A form of acupuncture where a small electric current is passed through each needle.

[2] The TCMDG is open for application from 2 Jan 2018.

Source: Ministry of Health, Singapore

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