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
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
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 www.citizens.org/register.
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 <firstname.lastname@example.org> for
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
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 www.betterhealthcampaign.org
Citizens for Health www.citizens.org
To register to vote online: www.citizens.org/register
To put a link to "Register to Vote" on
your own website, email <email@example.com> for
To sign up for the Campaign's e-newsletter, visit www.betterhealthcampaign.org and
look for the link on the left.
For examples of local action for children's shealth: http://www.betterhealthcampaign.org/community/kids_health/success_stories/
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.