Last week Gretchen DuBeau (Advocacy Coordinator for Alliance for Natural Health-International and Executive Director for Alliance for Natural Health-USA) was kind enough to do an interview with ACAM regarding the recent merge between the American Association for Health Freedom (AAHF), based in Washington DC, and the Alliance for Natural Health (ANH), based in Dorking, UK. United as the Alliance for Natural Health-International they have big plans for 2010 and beyond. Here's the interview:
ACAM: What made the AAHF and the ANH decide to merge?
Ms. DuBeau: Alliance for Natural Health and American Association for Health Freedom have been working together for years. ANH is located in the UK, so they have been working on the impact of the really increasingly far-reaching and stringent European regulatory systems. They attend all of the Codex meetings and really have been our eyes and ears on the ground internationally, while we have been working in the States and on the national level. But of course what's happening internationally is going to impact ultimately what the U.S. does down the road. So, while we've been coordinating our efforts, we got to the point where we realized that we can work so much more effectively and simply smarter by merging and working more closely together.
ACAM: What are some of the goals you'd like to accomplish together?
Ms. DuBeau: ANH-International is focused on creating a sustainable integrative medical model. We believe that the existing orthodox medical paradigm is really based on the overuse and the abuse of pharmaceutical drugs and this just isn't sustainable. So our main focus is to create a sustainable healthcare paradigm on many levels. The first and most important point in a sustainable healthcare system, in terms of the impact on the human body, encompasses things such as true prevention. Where as diabetes, for example, is a 100 billion dollar industry annually, that can be often times prevented. Now that's sustainable, using natural approaches such as diet, supplements and lifestyle modifications. A sustainable healthcare model is also sustainable economically, think about the savings to our healthcare system if we are not spending that 100 billion dollars a year on pharmaceutical drugs to treat diabetes, if we're actually preventing it. Then the third component in sustainability is looking at the environment. It is certainly more sustainable to nurture our environment and consume things like wholesome fruits and vegetables grown in soil that we protect and that is nutrient rich. If we're protecting our environment, that is protecting our health, so we want to create a situation basically that helps to reinforce our good health by protecting the environment as well.
ACAM: You've revamped your website, what makes the new site different and better than the previous one?
Ms. DuBeau: Well, we have created a lot of bells and whistles, so I think a lot of people will find it more visually pleasing, but most importantly there's a lot of additional information. We've really updated things, we've rolled out a couple of new campaigns that we've recently highlighted on our new website such as our campaign on Vitamin D. We're working to persuade the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institute of Health and Health Human Services to step up to the plate and help educate folks about the beneficial role of Vitamin D, particularly during the flu season. As well as more interactive opportunities for folks, such as commenting on newsletter articles. We're actually still in the process of completing the website. We're also in the process of creating a social networking aspect so that folks can really communicate with each other more effectively and exchange information, which of course at the end of the day, our goal is to educate folks about the benefits of natural health options, so that's going to be helpful there as well. Just increased access to information.
ACAM: What new aspects is ANH-International bringing to the table?
Ms. DuBeau: As ANH-International, this really gives us access to some of the top scientists working on natural health, including Dr. Robert Verkerk, he is just amazing. He's a brilliant scientist working in this area for quite some time and we're working more closely with him at this point, which really benefits our members and the work that we do by having access to the science that supports the political work that we do. Our strong suit is lobbying and the role that we play in terms of motivating our activists to take action both on the state and federal level, but we can't do that effectively unless we have the science to support our campaign because of course everything we do is really based in science. So, to have Dr. Verkerk working so much closer with us is just a blessing. But the other tremendous benefit of the merger and working more closely with ANH-Europe is again their insight into what is going on with the Codex process and with the European process as well. The EU (European Union) is in the process of going through and reducing access to a substantial number of supplements and other healthcare treatment options and we have to learn from their mistakes, and to have that insight and be able to apply that here to ensure that something like that does not happen in the U.S. is really critical.
ACAM: What is going to be ANH-International's next campaign in regards to healthcare reform?
Ms. DuBeau: This week we just rolled out, in our newsletter article, our response to the Center for Sciences in the Public Interest. They requested that the FDA abolish structure function claims and qualified health claims. First here's a little background, at the present time the FDA does not allow the seller of a food or supplement to say anything about the product, in as far as whether or not it treats a health condition or disease. Only if a company is selling an FDA approved drug, after going through the new drug approval process can they then make these claims about the health benefits. For example, a Vitamin D supplement manufacturer can't site how Vitamin D prevents and treats the flu. They can't educate the public about that unless they go through the new drug approval process and this process can cost hundreds of millions. As ridiculous as it sounds it can sometimes cost a billion dollars, which a company can't do if they're selling a natural product that can't be patented. But there are a couple of very limited exceptions, and those are the structure function claims and the qualified health claims. A company can use a structure function claim, which talks about the way that Vitamin D, for example, impacts the structure or function of the body. They could say that Vitamin D supports the immune system function, which of course is true. They could also go through the qualified claims process, where they petition the FDA to say a very specific claim, for example, that Vitamin D may prevent or treat the flu, but there has to be a qualifying term in there, such as the word, may. But the FDA almost never approves these claims. In any event, these are some very limited exceptions to the rule that health claims just simply can't be made. The Center for Sciences in the Public Interest is petitioning the FDA to abolish both of these exceptions, so if that were to happen, the ability to educate consumers of the benefits of natural health products would be significantly diminished. Unless the public turned to scientific journals it would be very difficult to find out a lot of this information that really needs to be known in order to take good care of ourselves. So, we just rolled out this campaign, and we're collecting signatures in a letter to the FDA. We'll definitely become more involved if the FDA does take formal measures regarding CSPI's petition, then we will get extremely involved in the process. I think that's a good example of some of the campaigns that we are working on that relate to healthcare.
Visit the new ANH-International's website at: www.anhinternational.org