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Paediatric Acupuncture Evidence Summary: – Birth of a new era

Paediatric Acupuncture Evidence Summary: – Birth of a new era

By Natalie Chandra Saunders

“Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world” (Nelson Mandela).

In December 2018, The Times published an article with the headline Professors sound alarm over rise of acupuncture for children. The article questioned not only the efficacy, but also the ethical implications of treating children with acupuncture.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, one of the first professors to step forward and criticise paediatric acupuncture was Edzard Ernst. In the article, Ernst is quoted as saying:

“I am not aware of sound evidence showing that acupuncture is effective for any childhood conditions.”

He goes on to state that children are more likely to be injured by acupuncture than adults, and could even have their lives put at risk if acupuncture is used in lieu of ‘effective treatment.’ Later in the article, pharmacologist David Colquhoun rubs salt into the wound by describing paediatric acupuncture as a “rather unpleasant form of health fraud.”

Of course, acupuncturists around the world were outraged by these ill-informed comments and in February 2019, paediatric acupuncture expert and College of Integrated Medicine (CICM) lecturer Rebecca Avern wrote a response to the article which was published here on the BAcC blog.

In her article, Rebecca explains that although Ernst and Colquhoun may not be aware of it, there is actually plenty of evidence that paediatric acupuncture is not only effective, but also safe when performed by properly trained professionals. The main issue is that this evidence is not as easy to find and access as it could be and that educating people about the benefits and safety of acupuncture (and other TCM techniques) was paramount.

An emergency meeting was called to respond to this problem with representation from paediatric acupuncturists from the UK, USA, and Europe. The need for better access to evidence was identified as a key priority area. In February 2019 a collaboration was forged between An Apple a Day, (Julian Scott’s online education platform offering continuing professional development in paediatric acupuncture), Rebecca Avern, Robin Ray Green on behalf of the USA’s Center for Advanced Acupuncture Pediatrics and Dr Elisa Rossi from the Acupuncture and Tuina Children’s' Centre (Italy).

From this meeting Kath Berry of An Apple a Day commissioned the Paediatric Acupuncture Evidence Summary (PAES) working with freelance academic writer Natalie Saunders. After several months of hard work reviewing and collating the available evidence, the PAES was born giving rise to a new era of paediatric acupuncture with an evidence base to support its use and protect against further attacks.

To fulfil its role as a vehicle to educate the general public, health providers and policy makers about the safety and benefits of acupuncture, the PAES covers several common paediatric conditions including:

  • Paediatric pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Colic
  • Nocturnal enuresis
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Autistic spectrum disorder
  • Asthma
  • Neonatal care

It also discusses various other issues including the safety and feasibility of paediatric acupuncture, as well as highlighting concerns over some more mainstream practices such as off-label prescribing.

The PAES was launched at an international panel meeting on June 4th at the suggestion of Robin Ray Green. Robin was joined by Dr Julian Scott, Rebecca Avern, Dr David Miller, Chair of the American Society of Acupuncture (ASA), and Elisa Rossi.  Mel Hopper Koppelman, Director of Evidence Based Acupuncture (EBA) opened the meeting by talking about the role of good quality research in changing policies and practice.

The PAES is, in fact, part of a bigger strategic plan to get the message out there and educate people about paediatric acupuncture. It is just one link in a longer chain of events to change the healthcare landscape and offer families safer choices for caring for babies, children and teenagers.

It is envisioned that the PAES will provide an important first step for qualified practitioners who may be thinking about treating children to take action even if they lack the confidence or are unsure where to start. High quality paediatric acupuncture education is available online to fill the knowledge gap, boost confidence and enhance clinical skills. Most importantly there is a strong network of dedicated practitioners all around the world, led by inspirational experts, to push the movement forward.

The PAES is a celebration of what can be achieved when a small group of visionaries get together and rise up when under attack. It serves as a vital resource when it comes to quieting sceptics such as Ernst and Colquhoun, and shows their claims regarding paediatric acupuncture’s apparent lack of evidence are unfounded and, moreover, simply untrue. It is a great example of different organisations with a common goal working together to achieve something that is far greater than the sum of their parts.

To watch the international panel replay, download a free PDF copy of the PAES and join the paediatric acupuncture movement visit: https://www.treatingchildren.com/PAES

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