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Health Promotion based on Traditional Medicine

South Korea
Partner Institute: 
Department of Health Policy and Management, School of Public Health, Seoul National University
Survey no: 
Soonman Kwon
Health Policy Issues: 
Current Process Stages
Idea Pilot Policy Paper Legislation Implementation Evaluation Change
Implemented in this survey? yes yes no no no no no
Featured in half-yearly report: Health Policy Developments 7/8


Ministry of Health and Welfare designated 30 HUB public health centers to implement health promotion programs based on traditional medicine approach. With population aging, traditional medicine approach has been more widely adopted for the prevention and health promotion in the area of chronic and degenerative diseases. The HUB public health centers will be mainly located in rural areas, where the process of population aging is very rapid.

Purpose of health policy or idea

Traditional medicine-based health promotion programs aim to apply the concept of illness and lifestyle of traditional medicine approach to health promotion programs in public health centers, particularly for the elderly and those in rural areas. Traditional medicine is popular in Traditional medicine health promotion team, which consists of traditional medical doctors and health promotion personnel, will design and provide programs to the community, such as health education based on traditional medicine approach, traditional medicine diet, traditional medicine-based physical exercise, etc.

Main points

Main objectives

Health promotion of the elderly in rural areas

Type of incentives


Groups affected

Consumers, particularly, the elderly in rural areas, potentially, traditional medical doctors

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Characteristics of this policy

Degree of Innovation traditional innovative innovative
Degree of Controversy consensual rather consensual highly controversial
Structural or Systemic Impact marginal rather marginal fundamental
Public Visibility very low low very high
Transferability strongly system-dependent system-dependent system-neutral

Political and economic background

Purpose and process analysis

Current Process Stages

Idea Pilot Policy Paper Legislation Implementation Evaluation Change
Implemented in this survey? yes yes no no no no no

Origins of health policy idea

Popularity of traditional medicine and recent increase in health promotion fund has contributed to the idea of traditional medicine-based health promotion programs. Traditional medicine is very popular in The recent increase in tobacco tax resulted in sudden huge increase in health promotion fund, which has led the Ministry of Health and Welfare to expand health promotion programs through public health centers. Increased financial resources help the Ministry introduce various new programs and new concepts of health promotion, such as traditional medicine approach. Traditional medicine adopts a wholistic approach to health and illness, and very much emphasizes prevention and health promotion.   

Initiators of idea/main actors

  • Government
  • Providers

Approach of idea

The approach of the idea is described as:

Stakeholder positions

There was no formal policy paper on this issue. Health promotion programs based on traditional medicine approach have been supported by the Korean Association of Traditional Medicine, which previously succeeded in persuading the government to employ traditional medical doctors in public health centers. Although Korean Medical Association did not explicitly oppose the policy, it did not support the policy. Many public health centers often provide medical care in addition to public health or health promotion programs. Therefore Korean Medical Association has kept a close eye on public health centers as potential competitors for patients.  

In addition, the tension between traditional medicine and (western) medicine always exists. Korean Medical Association may be worried that the application of traditional medicine to health promotion programs in public health centers results in increased popularity of traditional medicine and increased competition among traditional medical doctors and (western) medical doctors.

Actors and positions

Description of actors and their positions
Ministry of Health and Welfarevery supportivesupportive strongly opposed
Traditional Medical Associationvery supportivesupportive strongly opposed

Actors and influence

Description of actors and their influence

Ministry of Health and Welfarevery strongvery strong none
Traditional Medical Associationvery strongstrong none
Traditional Medical AssociationMinistry of Health and Welfare

Positions and Influences at a glance

Graphical actors vs. influence map representing the above actors vs. influences table.

Adoption and implementation

Based on the performance of 30 HUB public health centers, which implement traditional medicine-based health promotion programs, the Ministry of Health and Welfare will consider the extension of the new approach to all public health centers.

Expected outcome

Although traditional medicine is popular in

Impact of this policy

Quality of Health Care Services marginal rather marginal fundamental
Level of Equity system less equitable four system more equitable
Cost Efficiency very low high very high


Author/s and/or contributors to this survey

Soonman Kwon

Suggested citation for this online article

Soonman Kwon. "Health Promotion based on Traditional Medicine". Health Policy Monitor, April 2006. Available at