The Obama administration is already making good on its intentions to remake public policy and reform health care. In early December the Obama team sent out an email to everyone across the country in their database, inviting them to hold local community discussions on health care by the end of 2008, and to send the results to the incoming administration.
It’s easy to be cynical about government – is anyone listening? But for the first time I can ever remember, Washington was soliciting ideas from you and me – our grassroots opinions.
K.C. Miller generously responded to the call, and she offered to host the December 28th discussion at SWIHA. Dr. Martha Grout of Scottsdale agreed to serve as moderator. Approximately 250 people attended, and others sent their thoughts to us in writing.
It was invigorating to be part of such a unique gathering of people from the natural health care spectrum – doctors, dentists, massage therapists, homeopaths, acupuncturists, energy healers, and more. My thanks to all who shared their contacts with me to widely circulate the meeting notice.
Attendees were unanimous that there is far too little emphasis on prevention and preventive medicine today. They wanted to convey to the Administration that the United States must move away from the disease management paradigm of medicine that currently dictates health care.
In the preparation materials we received from the Obama administration, preventive medicine was mentioned as a major goal. I noticed their examples, however, were annual flu shots, annual mammography screenings, and regular cholesterol checks. To many of us who practice and use alternative/holistic/natural medicine, those add up to a dose of mercury, a blast of radiation, and an invitation to use statin drugs. That is not good preventive health care, and none of that will reduce the cost of health care.
Those who spoke up about the need to “fix the FDA” gathered the loudest applause from the audience. Attendees said time and again that the Federal Food and Drug Administration consistently fails to protect the public, and that it has become a tool of the pharmaceutical industry. Many attendees expressed the belief that because food is medicine, we must also reform commercial agricultural practices to create nutrient-dense food, free of pesticides and genetic modification. Many also said that school lunch programs need to be revamped as vital resources where children have the opportunity learn about good nutrition and health.
Other ideas offered up by attendees centered on the freedom to choose from a wider variety of health care options, including treatments that are now available in other countries. Our attendees want the freedom to choose vaccinations, the ability to know what chemicals are in the environment, a ban on television ads for prescription drugs, and they expressed the desire for the allopathic community to understand energy medicine – both the healing potential and the unhealthy exposure to electro-magnetic fields from cell phones, computers and such.
All the material was submitted electronically to the Obama team on December 31st. A copy of our community’s submission can be read at Dr. Grout’s website, http://www.arizonaadvancedmedicine.com/health_care_discussion1.html
Our community’s concerns regarding the FDA were echoed and amplified on January 7th, when an unusually blunt letter from nine FDA scientists was sent to the Obama administration outlining widespread managerial misconduct in a division of the FDA that makes medical devices. "The scientific review process for medical devices at the FDA has been corrupted and distorted by current FDA managers, thereby placing the American people at risk," the scientists wrote. The concerns echo some of the complaints from the FDA's drug review division a few years ago during the safety debacle involving the painkiller Vioxx.
The FDA declined to publicly respond to the letter, but said it is working to address the concerns.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are urging Obama to appoint a commissioner who will shake up the FDA and restore the confidence of its working-level scientists and medical experts.
The Obama administration took a major step in shoring up confidence in its commitment to change, just by making the call for communities to come together to speak about health care. We hold hope that the Administration continues to elicit dialogue and to honor the grassroots voices that made his election a success.
Submitted by Mary Budinger of Phoenix, an Emmy award winning journalist who writes for complementary and alternative medicine.