Field Medicine began as a simple idea – which from its outset was asking us to contemplate a future that, for several years now, has been looking more and more uncertain for most of humanity.
This idea confronts an uncomfortable reality - that modern biomedicine will become more and more unsustainable because of its soaring costs and its ever-increasing technological base - and will, therefore, become increasingly unavailable to those in our human family who are the most vulnerable to disease and suffering and therefore most need it. What’s worse is that we note that no-one really seems to want to address this inequality – to try to develop an appropriate medicine that’s affordable for those who most need it.
Our fear was that this situation is going to become especially acute as the effects of Climate Change are increasingly experienced by these same sectors of humankind. This is because we could see that this will result in widespread under-nutrition because of heatwaves and extreme storms which will have an inevitable consequence on human immune systems. And this will almost certainly be further exacerbated by population displacements which are already happening in greater and greater volumes.
For some time, these musings seemed to be as far as we could practically take the idea (above and beyond sharing our concerns wherever and whenever we could do – in conferences in Japan, the UK, France (UNESCO), and Canada). Over the same period, the world has seen more and more evidence emerging that confirms our fears - and more recently we have begun to see the effects of a pandemic of a novel infection critically effect the capacity not just of health infrastructures in the majority Global South, but also in well resourced industrial nations.
Behind the idea, though, lurked a secondary one, inspired by an existing publication called ‘Where there is no Doctor’. This is a basic medical treatment manual for those living farthest from the sorts of health care that most of us consider to be a human right. This secondary idea generated an extra question: given what we are learning about moxa, particularly about its value as a low-tech medicine, could we develop our own moxa treatment manual that could be of real use where there are just not just no doctors but also no clinical diagnoses and no drugs and a lot of predictable suffering?
It was a daunting question to consider, and we also recognized that it carried many complexities and so we shied away from it, diverted by other demands.
But then the Korean Red Cross Foundation invited us back to North Korea and provided the catalyst for us to finally start work – because their invitation included a request that we conduct some trainings with their rural country ('ri') doctors during our visit in the use of moxa for a range of complaints beyond TB.
Given that we already knew about the challenge of health provision in rural North Korea how could we refuse such an invitation? So we set to work.
Moxafrica Field Medicine Moxa Treatment Manual (v. 1.0)
This first version is now out there in Korean and is being effectively tested in the field by country doctors whom we trained during our last visit. The manual covers a wide range of complaints – and could yet cover more. The protocols are deliberately reduced to be as simple as possible, with each one accompanied by a carefully drawn set of point location illustrations.
Most of the treatment protocols are gleaned from our own research into moxa protocols that were used in rural Japan in the early and mid-twentieth century – and we’re still working on these. This is a live project (hence ‘v. 1.0') because we expect it to be refined and improved as we go along.
Our hope is that it will be used, and used carefully and that we will receive some useful feedback as to what’s useful and what’s not in the North Korean rural environment. If it gets taken forward at all, then we plan to translate it into at least four languages to make it as widely available as possible as a free download so that it can be accessed as widely as possible at no cost.
The first two pages of a 22 page manual in Korean