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Finding and Recommendation 5

Little Hover Commission 2004

Regulation of Acupuncture: A Complementary Therapy Framework

Finding 5:

The process used by the Accreditation Commission of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine appears to be superior to the school approval process used by the Acupuncture Board and could be used by the State to ensure the quality of education for potential licensees.

Prior to taking the California licensing exam, potential licensees must graduate from a school approved by the Acupuncture Board. In addition, schools also must be approved by California's Bureau of Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education, or similar bureaus in other states, which guard against diploma mills and fraudulent business practices.

Most schools also seek accreditation from the organization that has been deputized by the U.S. Department of Education to ensure the quality of education required to qualify for federal financial aid. In the case of acupuncture, that organization is the Accreditation Commission of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM). The other 39 states and the District of Columbia that license acupuncturists rely on ACAOM accreditation to ensure the quality of acupuncture schools. Students must graduate from an ACAOM-approved school as a condition of licensure in those states. Only California has its own school approval process.

ACAOM is the only accrediting organization that federal officials have approved for accrediting acupuncture programs and state regulatory agencies are not eligible to be deputized by the federal government as accrediting bodies.

Nearly all of the schools that are accredited by the Acupuncture Board also are accredited by ACAOM. ACAOM's process appears to be more rigorous and appears to put more focus on improving the quality of education over time. And - unlike the Acupuncture Board - ACAOM has an established process for reviewing accredited schools to ensure they are continuing to meet standards.

While ACAOM's curriculum requirements are different than California's, other regulatory boards have relied on national organizations to establish quality and then develop a means for assuring that state-specific curriculum standards are met.

By relying on the federally authorized accrediting body, ACAOM, to assess individual schools, California's regulators would have more time and resources to spend on enforcement, clinic audits, continuous competency improvement of licensees and refining the California examination.

Recommendation 5:

California should rely on ACAOM to accredit acupuncture schools, and other institutions for accreditation that are recognized by the Secretary of Education, while developing a mechanism to ensure that state-specific curriculum standards are met. To achieve that goal, policy-makers have two options:

  • Contract with ACAOM. California could establish a memorandum of understanding with ACAOM to certify that California-specific requirements have been met by individual schools and ensure that aggregated information is publicly available.
  • Require schools to document. California could require that schools document that they have met any California-specific legal requirements that exceed national accrediting standards. California uses this model for schools of podiatry.



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