241469 Rebel medicine: The politicization of acupuncture in redressing health disparity in the Philippines

Monday, October 31, 2011: 3:10 PM

Paul Kadetz, PhD, MSN, MPH , Department of International Development, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
In February 2010, the Philippine Military arrested, detained, and tortured 43 Physicians, Nurses, and acupuncturists conducting rural community health care trainings in Southern Luzon, Philippines. The arrests were justified by the military on the grounds that acupuncture needles were confiscated and that the health care team were members of the New People's Army (NPA). The case was recently brought before the UN Human Rights Council.

The NPA, formed in 1969, was chiefly concerned with agrarian reform and adopted acupuncture as the primary method of medical care for its members and communities. Members of the NPA would receive acupuncture training in China and return to train others in the NPA as well as in local rural communities. A vast and secretive network of trainings were arranged by the NPA throughout the Philippines. Acupuncture became so singularly identified with the NPA, that the mere possession of an acupuncture needle during the Marcos administration was adequate proof of membership in the NPA and thereby justification for arrest.

This research traces the utilization of acupuncture by the NPA, as well as by non-political local health organizations and the ensuing politicization of acupuncture in the Philippines. Semi-structured interviews analyzed with NVivo form the core of this research. This research reveals how physicians and nurses attempting to redress health disparity became targets of local level governments in the Philippines. The effect of the politicization of acupuncture on the current integration of acupuncture into Philippine health care systems is also examined.

Learning Areas:
Diversity and culture
Provision of health care to the public
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Discuss the development of acupuncture in the Philippines Analyze how the dissemination of acupuncture became political in the Philippines

Keywords: Alternative Medicine/Therapies, Politics

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I solely conducted the research presented
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.