Traditional Mongolian medicine has a known history of more than 2500 years. Rooted in Tibetan and Indian medicine, traditional Mongolian medicine is part of the broader cultural heritage of the people and reflects their lifestyle as well as geographic and climatic conditions.
From the 1930s until the end of the 1980s, traditional medicine was officially ignored. Socio-economic changes in Mongolia during the 1990s led to the development of the national culture, including revival of the traditional medical heritage. Traditional medicine is now more popular and accessible to communities.
Acupuncture and moxibustion have gradually been recognized as clinically effective in the treatment of disease and in the promotion of health. In 1991, two non-governmental organizations, the Association of Acupuncture and the Association of Traditional Medicine, were established (256).
There is one 100-bed hospital for traditional medicine, 15 small traditional medicine hospitals with 10 to 20 beds, 19 outpatient clinics for traditional medicine near Government health centres, and 81 private clinics and units of traditional medicine. There are also five manufacturing units for traditional medicines (257). Including those who have taken short-term courses in traditional medicine, there are about 600 - from a total of 5875 - allopathic physicians providing traditional medicine, acupuncture, and glass-cupping therapy.
The Government of Mongolia considers traditional medicine to be an important health care resource for the population and is therefore working to incorporate traditional medical remedies into the official health service (258).
In 1991, the Health Minister issued an order to begin developing traditional medicine from 1991 to 1995. This led to the establishment of an official structure for traditional medical care within the overall health system. In 1996, the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare worked out a development plan for traditional medicine for 1997-2000, focusing on training new personnel, standardizing training curricula, improving research, and expanding the manufacture of herbal medicines. A draft policy on the development of Mongolian traditional medicine was discussed at the Conference on National Policy on Traditional Medicine in 1998 and was adopted by the State Great Khural Parliament on 2 July 1999 (258). This document contains plans for developing Mongolian traditional medicine over the next 10 to 15 years and covers 19 areas of work, including the following:
• developing the structure and organization of hospitals of traditional medicine further;
• interrelating the activities of training and re-training of traditional medicine personnel;
• producing safe herbal medicines with naturally extracted herbs, in line with good manufacturing practices;
• providing support to doctors of traditional medicine and to private health institutions;
• exploring possibilities of curing critical diseases with traditional methods;
• applying some methods of traditional medicine to ambulance services as well as primary health care.
Education and training
Before 1989, there were no formally qualified doctors of traditional medicine. Since then, 24 to 26 students have been admitted and enrolled each year in the Department of Traditional Medicine at the national medical university. Many of the teaching materials, including acupuncture textbooks and facilities, are from neighbouring countries. In both the three-year programme and the six-year programme, many hours are allotted to traditional medicine but only a minimal amount of time is set aside for acupuncture (256).