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Alternative-Healthcare.com gathers together public documents relevant to the diverse practices of alternative health care professionals and the health and well-being of alternative health care consumers and potential consumers, republishing these otherwise "closed" documents in commentable, back-trackable form. Our purpose in doing so is encourage broader understanding and discussion of the many public health and safety issues connected with the most popular alternatives to conventional Western medicine.

In launching this venture, we choose to begin with a focus on the practice of Acupuncture in the State of California, specifically on the on-going debate over its regulation, scope and licensure, as expressed in law and regulation, and as it has evolved since the September 2004 report of the Little Hover Commission. Postings related to the practice of acupuncture in other states and to other alternative health care practices and issues, in general, will follow.

The Little Hover Commission summarizes the stakes of acupuncture regulation in the United States and California's significant history and role in that process:

As a destination for dream seekers, California has inherited the treasures of cultures Occidental and Oriental. Predictably, government is occasionally required to arbitrate, even regulate, how some traditions and practices are used in the public interest.

Such is the case of acupuncture and Oriental medicine, a healing art with ancient roots and modern branches. In 30 years, the State has evolved a full-scale professional regulatory scheme that licenses more than one in four acupuncturists in the United States.

This practice has flourished in the Golden State in part because of Asian immigration and influence in California. Increasingly though, Californians from all cultural perspectives have sought holistic approaches to maintaining health and have turned to traditional healers to complement or as an alternative to Western medicine.

Throughout this evolution, acupuncturists have sought to define and expand their authority, their role in the health care system, and their standing among health care professionals. These ambitions, however, have at times conflicted with the purpose of state regulation and created controversies that have been difficult for policy-makers to resolve. In two measures, SB 1951 and AB 1943, the Governor and the Legislature asked the Commission to review the scope of practice and the educational requirements for acupuncturists. The Commission also was asked to compare the State's procedure for approving acupuncture schools and administering the licensing examination with the national organizations that accomplish those tasks for other state regulators.

In examining these issues, the Commission identified three underlying tensions or conflicts that make it difficult to assess and reconcile the demands of the profession with the role of state government:

  1. The nexus between traditional Oriental and Western medicine is poorly defined. The two paradigms are based on different understandings of how the body works and how it is healed. While allowing acupuncturists to practice independent of Western medical doctors, the State has not defined when and how the two systems should work together. In turn, some acupuncturists are advocating for authority to make Western diagnoses using Western diagnostic tools.
  2. The profession has sought to elevate its standing through the regulatory process. While educational requirements were recently raised, the profession asserts that still higher minimum standards are needed to achieve "parity" with Western primary health care providers. The purpose of the government's educational requirements, however, is clear and limited to preparing entry-level practitioners to perform their scope of practice. They are not intended to serve as a measure of professional status or to favor one sector of the profession over another.
  3. Acupuncturists and the Acupuncture Board are concerned that relying on national standards and procedures will hold back the profession in California. Some professional acupuncture associations in the state have strongly resisted efforts to create a national framework for accreditation and examination, which has become the norm in Western medicine. While California acupuncturists are among the nation's leaders in the profession, the national organizations and experts in other states have much to offer the profession as it continues to mature.

Identifying these tensions is important to understanding the controversies, and hopefully providing a clear path for government regulators and the profession. Policy-makers must remember that the regulatory structure exists for the sole purpose of protecting the public. Licensure is not intended to advance the profession or ensure the economic prosperity of a segment of practitioners. Other health professionals can and do use other mechanisms - most of them private - for encouraging excellence among practitioners or integrating health care services.

Not so subtly, the Commission's admonition to "policy-makers" is also a broadside aimed at established acupuncture practitioners generally and, more pointedly, at the professionals who make up and have long controlled the California Acupuncture Board.

Open Letter Regarding Acupuncture Board Sunset

California Acupuncture Board

SACRAMENTO, CA 95814-6200
INTERNET: www.dca.ca.gov
(916) 445-4465
FAX (916) 323-6639

DATE: June 20, 2005

TO: All Interested Parties
FROM: CHARLENE ZETTEL Director, Department of Consumer Affairs
SUBJECT: Clarification on the Recommendations of the Department of Consumer Affairs and Joint Committee on Boards Commissions and Consumer Protection to Transition the Board of Acupuncture to a Bureau

The Department of Consumer Affairs (Department) is committed to supporting the profession of acupuncture. The ancient art of acupuncture has earned respect as a legitimate form of treatment. The Department continues to support the education, licensure and regulation of Acupuncturists and the profession. However, after careful consideration, the Department has recommended to the Joint Committee that the Acupuncture Board (Board) be abolished and its functions transferred to a new Bureau.

The Acupuncture Board is currently scheduled to “sunset” on January 1, 2007. That means the Board would cease to exist and that its licensing and other regulatory functions would be transferred to a new Bureau within the Department.

The Department has decided to support sunsetting the Board. The decision to support sunsetting came only after thoroughly reviewing facts presented at the Joint Committee hearings, reports previously submitted by the Board, findings provided by the Little Hoover Commission, and actions of the board during the past several years.

Continue reading "Open Letter Regarding Acupuncture Board Sunset" »


Little Hover Commission 2004

State of California
September 30, 2004

Regulation of Acupuncture: A Complementary Therapy Framework

The Honorable Arnold Schwarzenegger
Governor of California

The Honorable John L. Burton, President pro Tempore of the Senate,
The Honorable Dick Ackerman, Senate Minority Leader,
and members of the Senate

The Honorable Fabian Núñez, Speaker of the Assembly,
The Honorable Kevin McCarthy, Assembly Minority Leader,
and members of the Assembly

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger and Members of the Legislature:

In 2002, the Commission was asked by the Governor and Legislature to assess some long-standing and contentious issues regarding the State's regulation of the acupuncture profession. Specifically SB 1951 and AB 1943 requested that the Commission review the scope of practice and educational requirements for acupuncturists, the process for accrediting acupuncture schools and for examining licensees.

In conducting this review, the Commission sought out detailed and technical analysis - from experts at the University of California, California State University and RAND - to help sort through the conflicting claims that have frustrated the policy-making process. The Commission heard hours of public testimony, and engaged in even more hours of less formal public discussions. The Commission solicited and reviewed written comments from any individual and organization that desired their view to be considered, and it reviewed volumes of scientific and other treatises on acupuncture and Oriental medicine.

Continue reading "LITTLE HOOVER COMMISSION - September 30, 2004" »



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