Feature: COVID-19 underscores role of prevention, key in ancient Greek & Chinese traditional medicine

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ATHENS, July 25 (Xinhua) — Greece managed to effectively address the first wave of the novel coronavirus pandemic so far, despite the wounds in the national health system after a decade of a financial crisis, by focusing on prevention rather than treatment, Greek Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias told a forum in Athens this week.

As early as January, authorities had drafted a list of COVID-19 referral hospitals nationwide and personnel at medical centers and airports had been trained to deal with cases, before the first infection was diagnosed in the country on Feb. 26, while measures were implemented with no delay to contain the virus’ spread, he said.

The current pandemic underscores how significant prevention is, and prevention is key in both ancient Greek and Chinese traditional medicine, Greek experts told Xinhua in Athens in recent interviews.

“The coronavirus is here to stay and we must come to terms with this. Public healthcare conditions should change and what is more important for me is that the crisis highlighted how significant prevention is,” Professor Panagiotis Behrakis, Pulmonologist-Intensivist, said.

From the time of Hippocrates in the 5th century BC, who is considered as the Father of Western Medicine, medicine in the Western world has been based on three pillars — prevention, diagnosis and therapy, he explained.

In recent decades scientists have made strides using technology for diagnostic and therapeutic reasons, which however have not been matched with a similar development in the sector of prevention, with the exception of vaccines, the professor noted.

“If we take a good look at the way the international community reacted to the current pandemic and compare it with Greek statesman Pericles’ response to the plague in Athens 2,500 years ago, it is the same. They practiced social distancing and were burning the deceased,” Behrakis said.

“This is our main prevention mechanism today which means that there is something that we have not done correctly in the development and progress of medical science. We have not given enough attention to prevention. The coronavirus gave us a harsh lesson on prevention. I am sure that the everyday life of people will change so that prevention will have a stronger role,” the expert stressed.

Throughout the course of history, humanity has been tested numerous times by epidemic diseases that have been afflicting societies, changing social structure and often the way we generally perceive things, Greek physician Anastasia Karamouzi added.

Karamouzi grew up in China in the 1960s, has studied medicine in Beijing, and has been practicing traditional Chinese medicine acupuncture for four decades in Athens.

She identifies in depth the similarities and differences in the philosophy and practice of medicine in the West and the East. Prevention is key in both cases.

“During ancient times, in both China and well as in the majority of Asia, common practice would dictate that one would pay his/her acupuncturist doctor to keep them healthy. In the case the individual would get sick, it was their responsibility to heal the patient free of charge. It is therefore safe to say that in both the Chinese traditional as well the ancient Greek medicine, the main approach to prevention has been a precaution,” she explained.

Keeping our body well-balanced results in a strong immune system and the use of acupuncture, moxa, herbs as well as exercise techniques as Tai chi and Qigong significantly help our body to defend itself against exogenous pathogenic factors, Karamouzi said.

Quality rest and sleep, a well-balanced diet as well as maintaining a good mood is also of the essence to keep ourselves in good condition, she added.

“As many people nowadays live in large overpopulated cities, we suffer from excessive anxiety, pollution, overuse of mobile phones and screens. We need to realize that all these factors heavily contribute to the creation of sicknesses in the human body. Precaution therefore for us and our loved ones is the only way forward,” the expert said.

“The wealth of wisdom of the past 5,000 years significantly helps us to have best results in prevention. Therefore, combining Chinese traditional medicine with classic Western medicine and technology is a luxury we must take advantage of and utilize with regards to preventing sickness,” she stressed.

“Even if the COVID-19 is here to stay, I remain optimistic that humanity will come out stronger and wiser as it did many times throughout its course,” Karamouzi said.

Greece has registered so far 4,135 COVID-19 cases, including 201 fatalities, according to the latest data released on Friday by the National Public Health Organization.

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