Who is POCA really for?


As we have been making the shift from CAN to POCA, I've noticed a thread of comments here and there with a similar theme. They all express the idea that POCA is different from CAN in one major respect: the adjustment of our member clinics guidelines that allow a broader variety of clinics to join. Like, letting hybrids join, or clinics with a higher sliding scale. Like, POCA is now really *inclusive* because of these clinics.


As recent discussions here have shown, however, POCA is still evolving its guidelines as an organization and they may not be hugely different than before. (Are there even really that many CA clinics, or any, that succeed with higher sliding scales? That's a topic for another blog.) But to my mind, there is an enormous, game-changing difference between CAN and POCA, and the fact that sliding-scale guidelines may not be so broad after all just reinforces to me how big that change is.


Let me just quickly share my perspective on CAN, as someone who joined several years after its birth and took my sweet time in really becoming an active member. CAN seemed to me to function as a place to unite punks in revolution, to carve out a strong space for community acupuncture in the acu-world, to inspire enormous change in how acupuncture is practiced in the Western world. It was by punks, for punks. The fornt page of CAN was often about rallying against the FPD, public take-downs of various acu-establishment talking heads, passionate discussions about privilege in the acupuncture world, debates about the cost of acupuncture education, truth in numbers about the actual practicing of acupuncture in the Unites States, and so much more. All enormously beneficial to the creation of the sustainable model of truly affordable and accessible acupuncture practice as we know it today, in Oregon, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Minnesota, California, all over the country, in big clinics and in growing ones.


But there were times the front blog page was filled with insider-speak, acu-politics, jokes, and parodies that were great for us punks to read, but really weren't useful to the patients who might be visiting the site. There were times when I imagined a CA patient coming on to the site and being surprised or confused or affronted by what they read, or disappointed to be confronted to so many things that might seem irrelevant to someone simply looking for affordable healthcare.


So POCA is in fact awesomely, amazingly inclusive, not because of any additional clinics that may be on the LOC page, but because POCA is set up to ensure that PATIENTS get to be part of this movement.  PATIENTS get to join, be on the boards, vote, participate in their local clinics, and help us define what we are. PATIENTS are the reason that POCA is keeping the sliding scale low, so PATIENTS can actually afford to get acupuncture. And the front page of this site is geared to those patients, those people who may be coming here looking to understand what it is we do, where to find us, and how they can be a part of this.


CAN was about the community acupuncturists, but POCA is about the patients. Because without our patients, there is no community acupuncture. There are no clinics, no sustainable jobs, no acupuncture profession WITHOUT PATIENTS. Well-run, affordable sliding-scale POCA clinics have patients, and because of patients they earn livings and provide jobs and make enormous change in the world. So patients should get a place at the table here.


That's what makes POCA so radically inclusive, in my mind. It really has nothing with letting in that clinic in the next town that's been trying to make a go at it with a sliding-scale that starts at $25, or that does community acupuncture AND facial rejuvenation! (How exactly do you market effectively to both those demographics, anyway?) It has everything to do with providing a way for more people to get community acupuncture. 


If we include hybrids or other clinics in our organization, maybe we add five, ten, fifteen actual people to our ranks. But if we include our patients here? My small but growing clinic gave treatments to about 1,000 different people last year. Multiply that by 100 clinics; those are some incredible numbers. Our patients are our strength as an organization, as a force for change in the healthcare industry, in the social business movement, in the ripples of subtle change that every person takes with them when they get up after a treatment. 


So everyone who's saying that POCA is inclusive because it let's the hybrids in, let me ask you to reconsider that. What we're really doing is far more meaningful: letting the patients in. 

Author: Demetra

I live in San Francisco but I'm from New York, and apparently it shows. I come from a family with some members who have had very troubling illnesses, and I found my way to acupuncture in trying to figure out how to help. My father's illness cost him his small business, his savings, his house, and ultimately his life. I viscerally believe that healthcare should never, ever be limited to those few with money to spare. I see every day how the practice of affordable, community acupuncture can honestly heal the world. I feel a moral and ethical responsibility to do everything I can to make this gentle, powerful community medicine available to everyone.

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