Acupuncture in Brazil - an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity under pressure

Thursday, 14 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal 32 (Main Building)
Distributed Paper
Daniela RISAFI DE PONTES, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg; Ebramec, Brazil
Already in 2002, the World Health Organization (WHO) came up with the Traditional Medicine Strategy 2002-2005, encouraging its member countries to incorporate Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) in the national health systems.

Acupuncture is one of these alternative practices and a key pillar of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), spreading increasingly around the world. Summarized, acupuncture is based on the theory, that by physically stimulating channels, the human body’s self-regulating functions can be reinforced and bring health to the patient.

Since 2010, Acupuncture and Moxibustion are included in the representative list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by the UNESCO. According to them “Acupuncture and moxibustion are taught through verbal instruction and demonstration, transmitted through master-disciple relations or through members of a clan (…)” (www.unesco.org).

This view as well on healing as on teaching processes clashes with the conventional occidental view based on allopathic medicine and provides governments with the challenge to implement both into one Public Health System (PHS).

It is interesting to study the Brazilian case of integrating CAM into PHS because the country is relatively experienced in offering CAM services via PHS (Sistema Único de Saúde - SUS) to a broader public, as the law to include CAM services into SUS came into force already in 2006.

Consequently the question in this paper is not about the “if” CAM should be integrated into PHS but about the “whom” could/should attend the patients.

This paper attempts to outline a practical example, by describing the path taken regarding the regulatory attempt of practicing acupuncture in Brazil and additionally spotlighting patient voices and experiences. In order to accomplish the task there was conducted a literature analysis and in-depth interviews with patients, who are treated by non-medical acupunc­turists in São Paulo.