The quality of health care
has always been a sore point in this country. Ironically,
while health services are far below acceptable standards
they are absurdly expensive and out of reach for thousands
For the poor, going to the doctor may take
up a whole month's salary (or more) considering the exorbitant
doctor's fee and the cost of the long list of drugs which
have to be taken for long periods of time. With the number
of free or subsidized clinics falling grossly short of the
need, health care is a luxury the poor just can't afford
and which, for middle-income groups is getting to be increasingly
hard on the wallet.
Abdus Samad Khan a Bangladeshi acupuncturist who has been
practicing for the last 17 years in Dhaka, believes that
acupuncture if incorporated into mainstream health care,
could greatly reduce its costs as well as provide a more
sustainable option for patients with certain types of ailments.
“In a poor country like ours, if we can give relief through
acupuncture, this will also be a practical solution,” says
Dr. Samad, a retired colonel and medical officer of the
army. “The government should train doctors or establish
official training institutes so that acupuncture is incorporated
into all the public hospitals and health care centres.”
Abdus Samad Khan and his wife Razia Samad treating a patient
at his acupuncture clinic.
Dr. Samad, an MBBS doctor, got his own training
in the ancient discipline through a WHO scholarship at the
Institute of Training Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine
in Beijing in 1985. After returning to Bangladesh, he set
up his own clinic at Lalmatia where he still practices.
His patients are mostly poor or middle class people who
are in some kind of physical pain or the other. Many of
them are elderly patients who have tried various types of
treatments eventually coming to Dr. Samad's clinic, for
relief. Common ailments Dr. Samad treats include -- osteo
arthritis, painful backache, spondalitis, siatica, migraine,
paralysis due to stroke and asthma. Dr. Samad's wife Razia
Samad who has been trained by her husband, has been practicing
acupuncture since 1985, mainly on women patients who are
reluctant about being treated by a male doctor.
scientifically, the way acupuncture works is still not fully
understood one thing is quite evident -- that the treatment
works best with pain-related ailments. By activating acupoints
in the body -- we've got 361 of them -- pain is reduced
and often the patient is completely cured. “Thin needles
are pricked onto the body from 15 to 30 minutes, says Dr.
Samad. The duration of the treatment depends on the type
and severity of the problem and can go from 2 to 3 days
to a few weeks.” Sometimes electrical impulses are given
to the needles for better results. Dr. Samad adds that the
earlier an ailment is treated, the more effective and efficient
the acupuncture treatment. “Usually patients come at a very
late stage of their illness, after other treatments have
failed so the effect of acupuncture take longer to manifest,”
says Dr. Samad. This is because, says the doctor, people
are quite phobic about getting pricked by needles. But once
they realise that the needles are inserted only on the superficial
layer of skin so there is no chance of bleeding and that
the pain is actually quite bearable, patients are quite
receptive to the treatment. For many of Dr. Samad's patients,
the pain relief from acupuncture is significant which encourages
them to continue with the treatment. At his clinic, patients
are charged Tk. 500 for the first day of treatment and Tk.
200 for each subsequent session.
Dr. Samad and a handful of other Bangladeshi
acupuncturists need greater support from the government
for introducing this method to Bangladesh and practicing
it with sincerity and dedication. Financial constraints
prevent these doctors from expanding their clinics so that
more people can benefit. “Many of my patients,” says Dr.
come from far off villages and it is very difficult for
them to stay in the city and get treatment. That is why
acupuncture needs to be incorporated in health care services
all over the country.”
is WHO approved, and is part of the health-care system in
thousands of hospitals across Europe and U.S. mainly because
it works in treating many types of illnesses while significantly
reducing health-care costs. This makes it all the more practical
for Bangladesh to adopt similar policies so that acupuncture
is not just treated as a last resort method but a common
form of treatment offered by qualified practitioners and
one that is especially accessible to the underprivileged.
Aasha Mehreen Amin