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Gansu health official promotes folk medicine

(China Daily)

15:07, October 30, 2011

BEIJING - Doing a breathing exercise to cure hepatitis B and lung disease and eating pigs feet to recover from cancer surgery are among the remedies being promoted by a senior health official in Northwest China's Gansu province.

Liu Weizhong, head of the Gansu provincial health department, has been advocating folk remedies in a series of articles published on his department's website in recent weeks.

In an article posted on Tuesday, he said the health department has urged local hospitals to implement 10 cures for black lung disease, including eating pigs feet, raw carrots or chufa - an edible tuber also known as earth almond - and doing a breathing exercise or singing.

In other articles, Liu said one of his schoolmates was cured of hepatitis B by doing the breathing exercise for a half year and that a former coal miner cured himself of black lung disease with exercise.

Among the other tips named in the health official's articles are diabetics can improve their health by eating bitter melon and chrysanthemum powder and people with hypertension should drink celery juice.

Some experts said they object to Liu's articles.

"It's inappropriate to publish the department head's prescriptions and personal advice on an official website because it could possibly mislead the public. And the department will find itself bearing legal responsibility for the prescriptions (if there is any trouble)," Wang Yukai, a professor of government administration at the Chinese Academy of Governance, was quoted by China Youth Daily as saying.

Zhu Lijia, a professor of administrative law with the academy, said opinions and ideas irrelevant to government work should not appear on an official website. Zhu labeled the promotion of pigs feet and other prescriptions as "beyond officials' area of authority".

Some netizens claimed Liu might mean well, but what he did was "promoting pseudoscience".

Liu and the health authority's publicity officer said they will not delete all or parts of Liu's articles.

"How could we not be responsible for contents we put online," Liu told China Daily on Friday, adding his suggestions have been tested in clinics and even proved effective in the recovery of people injured in the landslides in the Gansu province's Zhouqu county in 2010.

"Many people in Gansu are poor, and these remedies are simple. As long as it cures patients, it's good."

That echoes Gansu health authorities' reform guideline for hospitals to "use the simplest means to address the most basic issues. Use as little as possible to maintain residents' health", Liu said.

According to the local health department, the cost of treatment for outpatients in Gansu averages 89 yuan ($14) and inpatient costs 3,400 yuan. Both figures are less than 60 percent of the national average - the average medical costs in Gansu are the second-lowest among China's provinces.

Liu chose to promote traditional practices to reform the local health system, saying they are "all right as long as they show themselves effective".

"Why should we comply with their (Western medical) concepts? I don't know why the media quote Western medical experts accusing our practices of going against the laws."

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