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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2013, Article ID 426360, 8 pages
Research Article

Integrating Traditional Chinese Medicine Services in Community Health Centers: Insights into Utilization Patterns in the Pearl River Region of China

1Jockey Club School of Public Health and Primary Care, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
2School of Public Health, Guangzhou Medical University, Guangzhou, China

Received 12 October 2012; Accepted 15 January 2013

Academic Editor: A. K. S. Rawat

Copyright © 2013 Vincent C. H. Chung et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


In China's healthcare reform, community health centers (CHCs) are designed to take a pivotal role in providing primary care. Whilst about 20% of all outpatient care in China is delivered by the traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) sector, hospitals, instead of CHCs, are major providers. Using current patterns of patient utilization this study aims to inform CHCs on how they may strengthen access to TCM services. Three thousand three hundred and sixty CHC patients from six cities within the urban Pearl Delta Region were enumerated using multistage cluster sampling. Fifty-two percent had visited herbalists within three months with a mean visit frequency of 1.50 times. Herbal treatments, which are cheaper than western medicines, were more popular amongst those who needed to pay out of pocket including the uninsured. Herbal medicines appeared to be an alternative for those who are underinsured. Acupuncturists and massage therapists were visited by smaller proportions, 6.58% and 5.98%, respectively, with a mean three-month visit of 0.27 and 0.26 times. Access was restricted by lack of social insurance coverage. Whilst increasing provision of TCM in CHCs might respond to patient demand, increasing insurance coverage for TCM needs to be evaluated using current evidence on safety and effectiveness.