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From the Townsend Letter for Doctors & Patients
August/September 2004


Pathways to Healing
by Elaine Zablocki

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Health-Conscious Voters Mobilize to Preserve Individual Health Choices

The Campaign for Better Health (CBH) has an idea that seems so obvious and so right, you wonder why no one thought of it before. They're mobilizing people who care about natural health to make their voices heard in the political arena. "We hope natural health shoppers will be empowered and begin to see themselves as natural health voters," says Ana Micka, President and CEO.

When you visit their website, the first thing you see is a large button for the "Healing is Happening" campaign. It's a place where consumers and healthcare practitioners can share their personal stories about natural healing with each other and with the world. In addition, each person's story is automatically forwarded to his or her Congressional representative and both Senators.

Next you see the website button for "Healthy Kids, Healthy Families." This campaign is designed to share information about grassroots community-based actions for children's health. For example, elementary school parents in Olympia, Washington wanted an organic salad bar as a lunch option, and they organized to make it happen. Del Rio Elementary School, in Oceanside, California, set up a program to help kids become more active, with coaching from the Joy of Sports Foundation. In Ruleville, Mississippi, students experienced improved health and better academic performance by simply taking daily vitamins. Stories like these enlarge our ideas about what it's possible to do to improve children's health.

The Campaign for Better Health focuses on sharing information about natural health issues. Its sister organization, Citizens for Health, focuses more closely on Congressional and other governmental actions that could affect our health. Right now one key focus is Senate Bill 722, the Dietary Supplement Safety Act, which would single out dietary supplements and hold them to a higher standard than many over-the-counter medications and food additives. While this bill is presented as consumer safety legislation, the final result would be limitations on consumers' ability to make their own health product choices. By early June, visitors to the Citizens' website had sent 17,500 letters to their representatives, opposing this bill.

On the website, it only takes a minute to review, sign and send a letter that's already drafted. "If people want to draft their own original letter or call, that's great," says political director Michael D. Ostrolenk, MA, MFT. "The more ways and times they contact their representatives, the better. But if they're short of time, and only want to use one of our model letters, that's fine too."

Ostrolenk spends a good deal of time talking with Congressional staff. "Members of Congress respond to their constituents," he says. "Often they tell me they're sympathetic to these ideas, but they don't hear people in the district saying it's important. They say, 'when we get 15 to 20 constituent calls or letters in a week, that's enough to put an issue on our priority list.'"

The Citizens' website also has a legislative scorecard that ranks members of Congress on two issue areas. "Whole Person Health" includes access to natural food supplements, alternative medicine, and wellness practices. "Food, Water and Ecological Health" looks at organic foods, reduced exposure to pesticides and toxics, and more informative food labels.

"We're starting to hear reactions to this campaign, some buzz in the hallways on Capitol Hill," says Micka. "Legislators are pleased to hear from their constituents about different approaches to healthcare."

With a national election in November, another focus right now is getting people registered to vote. It's easy to register online... just go to The Campaign invites natural health practitioners and others to post a link on their own websites, connecting to the "Register to Vote" button on the Campaign website. If you're interested, please email <> for more information.

Every couple of weeks, the Campaign sends out an email with the latest news about natural health, as well as scheduled future events. "We hope people will sign up for the newsletter, educate themselves about the decisions being taken on Capitol Hill in their name, and take actions to benefit themselves and their families' health and health choices," says Ostrolenk. "If our health choices are taken away, it will be really difficult to win them back."

At present, many people take personal steps to support their family's health, but feel powerless to influence larger corporate or political decisions that affect health. Micka has a deep personal vision of how that could be different. "There are millions of us who care," she says. "It's a shame that the government just approved a 600 billion dollar prescription drug bill, but spends almost nothing on ways to keep individuals from needing drugs. The costs of our current system are unsustainable, and we aren't getting the results we deserve."

She points to many examples of misplaced priorities, such as government subsidies for grains and corn for processed foods, but not for fruits, vegetables or nuts. "Our community has solutions to improve health and quality of life for millions of Americans, and we can do it at lower cost," she says. "We need to start playing a role in discussions about federal health programs, insurance, prescription drug prices and even school food programs. We need to get ourselves organized."

When you talk to people at the Campaign office, it's breathtaking to consider how much could grow from this beginning. Each month 6,000 new people take some form of action through the CBH website. During the course of the year, 6 million flyers will be distributed through natural health food stores. By December, the organization expects to create a 250,000-strong national grassroots network of health?conscious voters. "Through this sort of mobilization, we can stop the government from trespassing on our right to make individual health decisions," Micka says. "We need to put basic decisions on how health and wellness are created and defined back in the hands of individuals."

Campaign for Better Health
Citizens for Health
To register to vote online:

To put a link to "Register to Vote" on your own website, email <> for more information.
To sign up for the Campaign's e-newsletter, visit and look for the link on the left.

For examples of local action for children's shealth:

Elaine Zablocki is the editor of CHRF News Files, a bimonthly emailed newsletter about the emerging integrative medicine industry, published by the Collaboration for Healthcare Renewal Foundation.




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