Nowadays, acupuncture has been established internationally as a complete therapeutic healing technique. A large number of doctors in Asia (China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam) and the West (Europe and North America) apply acupuncture either by using the practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), or by utilizing current medical development and knowledge related to neuroanatomy and physiology (Medical Acupuncture).
Since 1990, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recognized acupuncture as a treatment method for a multitude of conditions. Bodies such as the NIH (National Institutes of Health) in America or the IASP (International Association for the Study of Pain) accept acupuncture as a valued treatment. Moreover, in 2010, UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) included acupuncture in its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
The acceptance of acupuncture by the medical community and the need for training in the method has had the following results:
In the USA, the largest universities in the country (Columbia, Cornell, Yale, Harvard, John Hopkins, Mayo, Tufts, Maryland, Chicago, UCLA, Stanford) include acupuncture in their curriculum for medical students and organize postgraduate programs for doctors.
Similar actions have been taken by universities in Europe (Nantes, Berlin, Duisburg-Essen, Rostock, Munich, Vienna, Innsbruck, Graz, Pécs, Bologna, Sapienza-Rome, Florence, Padova, Pavia, Milan, Sofia, Zürich, Bern, Stockholm, Tromsø, Kingston, Oxford Brookes, Coventry, Westminster, Southampton, Exeter, Sheffield).
In the Greek State the Ministry of Health “…accepts Acupuncture as a method of treatment that is carried out exclusively by Medical Doctors.” (574/Α4/1191/21-2-1980 & Υ7/οικ./4270/25-6-1996) It adds that “…the application of Acupuncture must be made exclusively by Medical Doctors who have experience and have been trained in Acupuncture…”.
The latest recognition of the method in Greece (June 2011) comes from the naming and codification of the Medical Acts of the Ministry of Health, where under the codes: A403799.37 & I215059, I215061, I215065, I215067, acupuncture and electroacupuncture are recognized as a Medical Act.
Today there is experience of using acupuncture for over 35 years in Greece and it is estimated that 1,500 doctors have received adequate training in the method. In addition, the country’s medical schools have developed research protocols, dissertations and post-graduate programs that adopt and implement acupuncture.
Numerous pain clinics in public hospitals (Aretaieio, Sismanogleio, National Hospital of Nikaia, Evangelismos, The Red Cross Hospital, Elpis, GNA “Gennimatas”, K.A.T. in Athens, ACHEPA and Theageneio in Thessalonica, PEPAGNI in Herakleion), as well as private clinics, use acupuncture and electroacupuncture in their therapeutic treatments.
Finally, insurance agencies such as the Health Fund for the Workforce of the Bank of Greece, the Insurance Organization of Journalists (ΕΔΟΕΑΠ), and private insurance companies such as Interamerican with MEDISYSTEM and Alico with the Benefit Club, recognize acupuncture as a medical practice and cover its expenses.
Medicine is not only judged by the national health system and the doctors that employ it, but also by the patients who seek its use (4-10% of European and American citizens resort to acupuncture to solve health problems). The demand for acupuncture by the patients themselves confirms its effectiveness. At the same time, it creates pressure on the medical community to produce scientific documentation through modern comparative studies, as well as the need to safeguard patients who choose this method of treatment. The State and institutional agencies (Medical Associations) should go one step further in acknowledging acupuncture as a subspecialisation in the field of medical science.