Byung-Hee Koh, Ph.D., KMD (Korea)
Ⅲ. Challenges for Sasang constitutional medicine4
Increased exchange with western medicine
General knowledge related to health and medicine is based on western biological science. For this reason, the concepts and theories in sasang constitutional medicine or traditional Korean medicine are very difficult to understand. Expanding the scope of patient-centric academic exchange has been raised as an important issue to overcome these limitations.
Generalization and familiarization
Medicine is clearly a specialist area, but it is closely related to daily life. In reality, many diseases are associated with a patient’s environment and dietary behavior. As such, there is a need to develop guidance for basic healthcare using approaches that anyone can apply to their daily life. Recently, there have been efforts to study the effects of sasang constitutional traits on chair development, interior design, healthy diets, play guidance for children, learning styles and career exploration for youths, and leadership and organizational operations within workplaces.
Increased exchange with basic sciences
Insofar as it is founded upon various basic sciences, traditional Korean medicine strongly demands a multidisciplinary approach. The development of traditional Korean medicine is important because, when accompanied by multidisciplinary research, it can promote creative advancements in not only medicine and pharmacology, but also in wide ranging areas such as biochemistry, bioengineering, food science, agricultural science, and even ethics and philosophy.
Ⅳ. Future prospects
Medicine that places humanity at the center
If the natural sciences can be said to promote the mechanization of humans, traditional Korean medicine, especially SCM, recognizes humans as a being with duties and responsibilities to direct healthy development of societies. It cannot be ignored that the predominance of considering the body in purely physical terms in western natural sciences, and where this meets economic principles, manifests as extreme selfishness. SCM is meaningful as a healthy model for future medicine because it encourages responsible self-care based on a robust social consciousness, through the pursuit of harmony between humans and nature, society and individuals, and body and mind.
Preventive medicine – reflecting national health insurance policy
In Dongui Suse Bowon’s Gwangje-seol, Lee Je Ma presented the wisdom of living healthily, according to one’s constitution, from birth until death. To maintain good health, it is important for all individuals to receive preventive medical care throughout their lifetime. Depending on the individual, this may include maternity and child healthcare, infant healthcare, healthcare at school, community healthcare, adult disease care, and elderly healthcare. The importance of different stages of healthcare is universally recognized and reflected in national healthcare policies, with a large investment of financial, physical, and human resources.
If the mentality of SCM were actively applied to preventive medicine, it could provide actual improvements in national healthcare. SCM is not limited to theory, but possesses concrete and practical treatment techniques. Therefore, if the SCM mentality were applied to all areas of national healthcare, it could establish a robust model of future medicine.
With the recent publication and discussion of the results of the Genome Project, there have been attempts to develop treatments based on individual characteristics. Lee Je Ma, in Korea, had already elucidated the importance of personalized medicine when caring for patients in clinical practice 100 years earlier. Just as a tailor-made suit can resolve the discomfort from an off-the-rack suit that feels somehow not right for the body, constitution-based treatment is expected to provide a higher quality of life, by exploring methods of care and recuperation that are suited to the individual’s environment while taking into account their unique constitutional traits. Several aspects might be incorporated in personalized medicine, including:
- Personalized diet – establishment of a constitution- based diet culture 7)
- Personalized treatment – constitution-based treatment
- Personalized care – constitution-based treatment environment, disease management, and health examinations
Construction of a healthy society5
Placing others before oneself and pursuing public benefit over personal profit plays a key role in constructing a society in which the most ethical people are the healthiest. Caution regarding alcohol, sex, money, and power (酒色財勸), developing a sturdy conscience and genuine character (存心養性), and an attitude of seeking wisdom and enjoying good deeds (好賢樂善) produce a bright future and healthy society. In addition to the construction of a new medical paradigm, this will play a leading role in improving quality of life and society as a whole.
Establishment of growth programs based on the principle of ji-in-jeong-gi (知人正己) (understanding people and examining oneself’)
At the heart of a healthy society, is the harmonious association, in pursuit of mutual understanding, of the four constitutions with their different perceptions, abilities, character, working methods, personal relationship style, and aptitudes. On this basis, it is important to establish a culture in which individuals acquire and practice healthy love, which produces mutual harmony based on an understanding of the constitution, and the strengths and weakness of oneself and others.
Here, Sasang constitutional medicine holds the key. Combined with efforts in other fields to construct a healthy society, the mentality of Sasang constitutional medicine could provide a shortcut to making a society of individuals with good health who will lead a long life.
Contributing to the improvement of healthcare worldwide
Lee Je Ma pronounced the need to cultivate a medical mentality that could contribute to improving healthcare worldwide, based on the principles of dongui (東醫, the originality of traditional Korean medicine), suse (壽世, living one’s full lifespan), and bowon (保元, preserving one’s original vigor).
Fostering traditional Korean bioindustry in the 21st Century
The 21st Century presents the opportunity for modern medical diagnosis and treatment techniques, through the development of genomic information linking eastern and western medicine, to drive the new medical bioengineering industry. In addition, there is potential to create links between research, treatment, and medical and pharmaceutical industries via a convergent technical approach involving western diseases, sasang constitutional pathologies, and genetic diagnosis. In so doing, SCM needs to grow into a global medicine worthy of leading in the 21st Century, generating a global market and contributing to worldwide improvements in healthcare.