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Home > Newsletters > March 2008 > The Pan African Acupuncture Project in Uganda

The Pan African Acupuncture Project in Uganda

By Emilie Salomons, R.TCMP, R.Ac.

This December 2007, as part of a group of five acupuncturists from North America, I was privileged to spend three weeks in Uganda teaching local healthcare workers acupuncture. The response from all parties was incredibly positive. The Pan African Acupuncture Project (PAAP) training system is based on highly successful models such as the ‘Barefoot Doctors’ in China and ‘GUAMAP’ in Guatemala. PAAP is a very practical training system that is geared towards getting healthcare workers from training to treating patients with acupuncture as fast and as safely as possible. December was round one of three training intensives the two groups of medical professionals involved would receive throughout the next year. The response from the healthcare workers was one of curiosity, excitement and relief that they would have another tool to treat the myriad of patients they see everyday. This allowed them to treat not only their regular patients, but also patients who could not be treated with allopathic medicine, patients who had no access to medication, and patients who were not willing to see allopathic medical professionals.

“Acupuncture is like the bridge between our traditional medicine and Western medicine,” one trainee commented. The trainee was referring to the observation that certain patients who were only willing to see Traditional African Medicine Practitioners (TAMP) felt comfortable having acupuncture and were more willing to listen to advice given by their acupuncturist or TAMP, including advice about HIV testing. A benefit noted with the use of acupuncture was that it was sustainable and affordable. In a country where fraudulent placebo medication has sometimes found its way into pharmacies, and where availability of medication is not always guaranteed, acupuncture is proving to be a promising addition to the Ugandan medical system. Patient response was nothing short of phenomenal. It was often the response of the patient that convinced the healthcare worker to implement acupuncture into their rural health centres.

Reaction to the acupuncture, for reasons we can only start to imagine, was much faster and more drastic than in North America. Often what took 4 or 5 treatments in North America to see effect would take one treatment in the village clinic. We had people literally jumping off the treatment tables dancing with relief. I would estimate that 85% of the patients my trainees and I saw marked at least a minimal feeling of improvement after the first treatment, if not greater. To imagine a series of such treatments is simply exhilarating. The most common diseases seen were HIV related opportunistic infections, keloids, malaria and pain, all of which responded very well to treatment. As someone who spent five years studying Chinese Medicine full time, I must admit I was skeptical of how much could be taught in such a short period of time. Fortunately, with the use of the training manual which each trainee took away with them, this simplified, very pragmatic, ‘no frills’ program allowed the healthcare workers a way to start treating some of the most common diseases immediately, even with pattern differentiation. Once treatments had begun, the patient results were enough to convince me of the efficacy of the point prescription in the manual. The best part was that the trainees, now equipped with a new treatment tool, were incredibly excited about acupuncture and very curious to learn more.

With over 170 Ugandan healthcare workers trained in acupuncture, and interest from neighboring countries like Kenya and Malawi, the Pan African Acupuncture Project is proving to be an invaluable addition to Uganda’s already progressive effort in treating and caring for its people. As a recent volunteer trainer, it is without hesitation that I say the trip was undoubtedly the most inspiring, satisfying and enriching practical experience I have had.

Emilie Salomons is a Practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Vancouver, BC. She has a private practice in Yale Town and also works for Vancouver Coastal Health Authority doing acupuncture detoxification.

This Month's Articles

March 2008
Volume 6, Number 3

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The Pan African Acupuncture Project in Uganda

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