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WHO 11th ICD includes Traditional Chinese Medicine

Updated: Feb 4, 2020

The 11th revision of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD) has recently included Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for the first time. ICD-11 will be presented at the World Health Assembly in May 2019 for adoption by Member States, and will come into effect on January 1, 2022.

The WHO first announced the news last June, noting “the inclusion for the first time of traditional medicine is a way of recording epidemiological data about disorders described in ancient Chinese medicine, commonly used in China, Japan, Korea, and other parts of the world.”

ICD is a standardized system of alphanumeric codes for diagnoses used in medical billing and coding throughout the world, as well as for epidemiology, research, and cataloguing causes of death, according to the WHO.

After WHO began the 11th revision of ICD, China’s State Administration of TCM organized a group of TCM experts to conduct research and discussion, formed a drafting plan, and sent a commissioner to serve as a member of the WHO project advisory group.

Under the lead organization and technical guidance of the WHO, after long-term efforts, and finally with the cooperation of relevant countries, a disease classification system, based on traditional Chinese medicine and taking into account the traditional medical contents of Japan and South Korea, was established in ICD-11. It has promoted the inclusion of 150 diseases of traditional medicine and 196 syndromes (excluding specific and non-specific diseases) into the ICD-11 Traditional Medicine section.

Types of treatment in TCM
Types of treatment in TCM

Although millions of people use traditional medicine worldwide, it has never been classified in this system. The latest revision incorporates TCM diagnoses components, such as qi deficiency, damp heat, and liver qi stagnation. The enlistment will also allow TCM practitioners to track services rendered using the standard code system, some members of the science and research community have expressed concerns about the changes.

Despite of some critics, the WHO says incorporating is not a judgement on the validity of a condition or the efficacy of treatment, but is an important aspect of mapping how humans live and the types of healthcare they receive.

It is of great practical significance and historical significance to promote the integration and development of traditional Chinese medicine and the medical and health systems of all countries in the world, and to lay the foundation for the world to understand and use Chinese medicine.


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