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I thought it a good notion that the Washington City Paper would run a piece about the recent incorporation of acupuncture services into the plans of the D.C. Emergency Management Agency. However, after having the read the article (“Pin Doctors,” 10/25), I find that it lacks an understanding of how accepted acupuncture actually is in this country.
I have always believed that one of the benefits of good journalism is to broaden the debate around current topics and even to assist in the creation of new thought. The objections given to acupuncture and the “belief” as to whether it is effective or not, as related in “Pin Doctors,” were all hashed out 20 to 30 years ago, and the many studies available on the National Institutes of Health Web site attest to acupuncture’s efficacy. The issue being currently discussed by acupuncturists and most medical doctors is how best to incorporate this method of healing into our health-care system.
Acupuncturists are trained for three to five years in Oriental medicine, which includes Western and Oriental anatomy, physiology, diagnosis, and treatment planning. The World Health Organization has acknowledged acupuncture to be effective in treating 43 disorders, including asthma, infertility in men and women, migraines, and hypertension. Moreover, acupuncture has been shown through various trials to be effective in treating numerous stress-related conditions, including insomnia, anxiety, and depression.
Indeed, the reason acupuncture has been widely accepted in the United States is that it works. In fact, it works so well that people are now paying more visits to practitioners of alternative medicine than to regular M.D.s, at least according to a study conducted by the New England Journal of Medicine. And in making these visits, people are most often paying out of pocket, rather than receiving insurance reimbursement, creating a medical system not tracked by the insurance industry.
When the emergency acupuncture clinic opened shortly after the falling of the World Trade Center in New York, the acupuncturists were swamped and worked 24-hour shifts for weeks. In the end, they treated more than 1,300 people. I can assure you that the relief workers who were treated came because of physical pains and emotional distress, not to have their palms read, nor to have astrological charts cast.
While it is important to maintain journalistic balance, it is perhaps more important to refrain from journalistic error. Global warming is an established fact in scientific circles, yet one can still find a few holdouts who will likely claim no such phenomenon exists even while the waters circle round their feet. Likewise, one can still find those who will deny the practicality of acupuncture as a healing method, despite scientific evidence to the contrary.
The issue before us is how best to incorporate acupuncture into our current health-care system, and the D.C. Acupuncture Society is the first professional acupuncture group in the country to be negotiating a formal agreement with a government entity, although many agreements have already been reached with nonprofit hospitals. We are also at work creating a national network of acupuncturists who can assist underserved communities in the event of natural or other disaster.
This development is important, because a healing system with a clinical track record that reaches back 5,000 years is going to be available to more people in distress. Indeed, this is not the first use of acupuncture in this area. It is available at George Washington University Hospital and the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Senators and representatives receive treatments; I know because I have treated some. Nannies, waiters, and cabdrivers receive treatments; I know because I treat them, too.
Those of us in the D.C. Acupuncture Society are committed to ensuring the health and well-being of everyone in the District, using the unique skills we have learned and practiced. The D.C. Emergency Management Agency is committed to providing the highest-quality emergency relief in the nation, using all possible means available. I would think that a story about the effect of people working together to prevent suffering in our area would have greater appeal than one on the alleged spurious aspects of acupuncture.
D.C. Acupuncture Society