<%-- Page Title--%> Health <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 120 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

August 29 2003

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Practical Alternative

The quality of health care has always been a sore point in this country. Ironically, while health services are far below acceptable standards they are absurdly expensive and out of reach for thousands of people.

For the poor, going to the doctor may take up a whole month's salary (or more) considering the exorbitant doctor's fee and the cost of the long list of drugs which have to be taken for long periods of time. With the number of free or subsidized clinics falling grossly short of the need, health care is a luxury the poor just can't afford and which, for middle-income groups is getting to be increasingly hard on the wallet.

Dr. Abdus Samad Khan a Bangladeshi acupuncturist who has been practicing for the last 17 years in Dhaka, believes that acupuncture if incorporated into mainstream health care, could greatly reduce its costs as well as provide a more sustainable option for patients with certain types of ailments. “In a poor country like ours, if we can give relief through acupuncture, this will also be a practical solution,” says Dr. Samad, a retired colonel and medical officer of the army. “The government should train doctors or establish official training institutes so that acupuncture is incorporated into all the public hospitals and health care centres.”

Dr. Abdus Samad Khan and his wife Razia Samad treating a patient at his acupuncture clinic.

Dr. Samad, an MBBS doctor, got his own training in the ancient discipline through a WHO scholarship at the Institute of Training Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Beijing in 1985. After returning to Bangladesh, he set up his own clinic at Lalmatia where he still practices. His patients are mostly poor or middle class people who are in some kind of physical pain or the other. Many of them are elderly patients who have tried various types of treatments eventually coming to Dr. Samad's clinic, for relief. Common ailments Dr. Samad treats include -- osteo arthritis, painful backache, spondalitis, siatica, migraine, paralysis due to stroke and asthma. Dr. Samad's wife Razia Samad who has been trained by her husband, has been practicing acupuncture since 1985, mainly on women patients who are reluctant about being treated by a male doctor.

Although scientifically, the way acupuncture works is still not fully understood one thing is quite evident -- that the treatment works best with pain-related ailments. By activating acupoints in the body -- we've got 361 of them -- pain is reduced and often the patient is completely cured. “Thin needles are pricked onto the body from 15 to 30 minutes, says Dr. Samad. The duration of the treatment depends on the type and severity of the problem and can go from 2 to 3 days to a few weeks.” Sometimes electrical impulses are given to the needles for better results. Dr. Samad adds that the earlier an ailment is treated, the more effective and efficient the acupuncture treatment. “Usually patients come at a very late stage of their illness, after other treatments have failed so the effect of acupuncture take longer to manifest,” says Dr. Samad. This is because, says the doctor, people are quite phobic about getting pricked by needles. But once they realise that the needles are inserted only on the superficial layer of skin so there is no chance of bleeding and that the pain is actually quite bearable, patients are quite receptive to the treatment. For many of Dr. Samad's patients, the pain relief from acupuncture is significant which encourages them to continue with the treatment. At his clinic, patients are charged Tk. 500 for the first day of treatment and Tk. 200 for each subsequent session.

Dr. Samad and a handful of other Bangladeshi acupuncturists need greater support from the government for introducing this method to Bangladesh and practicing it with sincerity and dedication. Financial constraints prevent these doctors from expanding their clinics so that more people can benefit. “Many of my patients,” says Dr. Samad, “
come from far off villages and it is very difficult for them to stay in the city and get treatment. That is why acupuncture needs to be incorporated in health care services all over the country.”

Acupuncture is WHO approved, and is part of the health-care system in thousands of hospitals across Europe and U.S. mainly because it works in treating many types of illnesses while significantly reducing health-care costs. This makes it all the more practical for Bangladesh to adopt similar policies so that acupuncture is not just treated as a last resort method but a common form of treatment offered by qualified practitioners and one that is especially accessible to the underprivileged.

By Aasha Mehreen Amin



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