Guest Post – Community Acupuncture in Europe

On the heels of Justine’s post on ACMAC, I would like to share a piece written by one of my students at AIMC- Berkeley at the end of our Community Acupuncture Practice Development class. Thanks, Aracely for allowing me to post this!


Hello Community Acupuncture Colleagues,
my name is Aracely. I moved from Berlin, Germany to the Bay Area 2,5 years ago and now am a graduate student at the Acupuncture College in Berkeley. In Germany I am a licensed acupuncturist and have worked in my own clinic, as well as in several integrative medicine settings for 8 years.
I came across the Community Acupuncture Model while at the Berkeley-school and was so fortunate as to get a good first glimpse at the essence of it for over half a year in the busy school Community Clinic – even before I get licensed.  All central elements of the CA deeply resonated with me from the very beginning, and having experienced and seen how acupuncture is practiced in Germany and several other European countries, I began thinking how and when I could import and help spread CA in Europe.

Naturally, since I am a fairly new immigrant to the US, I still am and feel very connected to Europe with my heart and my mind. And so, I am determined that what I can do to spread the word, I will do. I dearly wish to see this Acupuncture model thrive all over Europe and far further beyond.

Thoughts on the Introduction of Community Acupuncture Clinics to Europe

Aracely Kriete, Fall Trimester 2009

During this trimester, while following  the statistics about class division, income and healthcare and the development of community clinics in the USA, I  started thinking, whether these numbers and facts as well as the whole concept of community clinics could translate to the countries of the European Union.
There is one very big difference between Europe and the USA. In Europe, most people are required to get healthcare. Whether one gets health insured through the job/work, through family or is self-insured doesn’t matter.

Let us take Germany as an example:
Most  Germans are insured through several big or local Insurance companies, that offer very simple, very basic coverage for everything and everyone. Since this basic insurance doesn’t cover special dental procedures, more expensive glasses and also no natural medicine, anyone who can afford it, adds additional insurance to the basic Plan.
Since the late 1990ies Insurance companies have offered additional “Naturopath Insurance”  for around 25-35 Euro monthly, which cover a large variety of natural healing methods, including acupuncture. These insurances pay a limited amount (between 500-1000 Euro yearly) that the client can spend on any of the accepted healing modalities. These additional plans are used increasingly, especially in the middle class. which has led to more people getting the chance to experience acupuncture.

Still, the majority of Germans has never had acupuncture, although statistically Homeopathy and Acupuncture are the best known and favorite alternative healing methods in Germany.
Also with the media bringing traditional Chinese Medicine more and more into awareness, the interest and demand for affordable acupuncture constantly rises.
Nevertheless, for many people acupuncture remains not affordable, with prices between 50-150 Euro per session in private acupuncture practices.

With a population of approximately 82 Million people and an unemployment rate of 8.5%, Germany , formerly known for a broad middle class, is starting to divide into a multiple class society.
Theses days, there is still a big discrepancy between East and West Germany, with the former communist East being generally below average income and with a higher unemployment rate.

Since sources showed slightly varying statistics I took the liberty of averaging the numbers for convenience. Latest statistics (2008) show, that 47.1% of the population  earn less than 20.500 Euro, 47.4 % earn less than 52.00 Euro annually. Thus 94.5 % of all Germans can form the working class, lower middle class and middle class (which still is broad, compared the US).
5.1%  with an income between 122.00-245.000 Euro can be considered upper middle class. And with 0.4% , the owning class earns more than 245.00 Euro annually.

To go to a single acupuncture of an average 70 Euro, would represent 6% of the monthly take-home income in the working class, about 3-4 % in the lower middle class and 2-3 % in the middle class.

Looking at other European countries, a similar or more unequal distribution of wealth and income can be seen. On the Gini Coefficient Index (measure of inequality of income distribution or inequality of wealth distribution)  the Scandinavian countries show more equality, whereas in Italy, France, Greece, England… the Gini Index is higher, indicating a less equal distribution of resources.

The trend towards alternative medicine is in full swing all over Europe. But in spite of growing demand, I assume, that less than 1% of Northern Europeans and far less than 1% of South Europeans have ever had the opportunity to try Acupuncture.(I could not find numbers, so this is a rough guess)
Consequently the need for affordable alternatives to the standard western medical health system is very high.
The way Acupuncture is practiced in most European countries today is the conventional private practice, with a one on one, very individualized treatment concept.
Thus, generally speaking, the whole working and lower middle class population all over Europe has not been given the change to access acupuncture yet.

My personal Target Market Analysis for Community Clinics in Europe
I can see, how well the concept of Community Clinics can be imported into Europe.
Community and sharing an experience in a group setting is generally highly valued. This is  especially true for countries with a strong, traditional family- and clan bond like Italy, Spain, France…where group oriented activities and living conditions are predominant.
Also countries that identify strongly with their history and ancestors, their culture and roots tend to show more appreciation for a strong community. This would probably apply to all European countries.
Furthermore, the imprints of socialism, communism and working class movements and revolution are still very present and alive all over Europe, from Finland  over East Germany down to Italy, France and Spain.
Multiple wars have left their scars and have shown to those countries involved, how valuable, strong and lifesaving a community can be. European City or Village structures with a city- or village center and mainly pedestrian oriented traffic also build community and encourage social behavior.
Bringing the strength of a community into the realm of healing will  undoubtedly be welcome anywhere in Europe, as well as a huge success.


Author: tatyana

<p> I grew up in the Soviet Union and immigrated to the United States as a teen, living in New York and Chicago before moving to the Bay Area in 1998. I began as a Yoga instructor and as a practitioner of Ohashiatsu bodywork and have been practicing Acupuncture/Chinese Medicine since 2003. Before switching to community acupuncture practice model I had a sporadic and struggling private practice, worked as an herbal pharmacist, as an instructor and clinical supervisor at an acupuncture school, plus did a two-year stint doing acupuncture at a public health clinic, working with mostly HIV/HCV+ populations in San Francisco. </p> <p> My discovery of Community Acupuncture practice model (via Lisa Rohleder's Acupuncture Today columns) profoundly transformed my life -- not just my work life but many other aspects of it. I gained a vocation, a community of friends and the most stable and rewarding job I have ever had. I see community acupuncture practice model as the most sustainable and most fitting to my values. It makes sense to me from the point of view of healthcare access, social justice, spirituality, and as an antidote to isolation. In 2008, together with another stellar acupunk Pam Chang I...

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  1. Thank you for sharing, T.

    My great-grandparents emigrated from Germany at the turn of the last century, so I have some appreciation for the strong, traditional family values that many of the European communities revolve around.  But I hadn’t considered how the socialist roots of Eastern Europe would factor into the CAN model.  Interesting analysis…