In the early 1990s, a small group of practitioners, MDs, and DOs who used nutritional and other complementary therapies in their practices came together to share their concerns. Medical freedom was being threatened by the FDA, by powerful allopathic medical organizations like the American Medical Association (AMA), by insurance companies, and by state medical boards around the country. Good doctors were losing their licenses or being driven into bankruptcy simply because they used an unconventional, holistic approach to preventing disease and optimizing health.
Advancements in medicine were being stymied because good practitioners were afraid of censure. Americans had no access to some of the most cutting-edge medical therapies and technologies available in other countries, while medical costs were spiraling out of control, spurred on by the explosion in pharmaceutical, surgical, and chemotherapy treatments, many of them based on doubtful science and not even effective, despite their high cost.
In 1992, this small group began advocating for holistic health practitioners and consumers on Capitol Hill, in state legislatures, in the courts, and with the media. We called ourselves the American Preventive Medical Association (APMA) to reflect our belief that truly preventive medicine focuses on maintaining optimal health with healthy food, key nutraceuticals and dietary supplements, exercise, and complementary medical therapies.
It was a critical time: a coalition of health and industry organizations were mobilizing the largest national grassroots effort ever seen in our country. Working with a broad coalition of allies, we were able to persuade Congress to pass the Dietary Supplement Health Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994—a major reform of the food and drug laws regulating supplements. It specifically prohibited the FDA from classifying supplements as new drugs or food additives, and permitted, for the first time, limited claims on supplement labels regarding the bodily structure or function benefitted from the supplement, so long as no specific disease was mentioned. It also stated that the federal government should not take any actions to impose unreasonable regulatory barriers to limit or slow the flow of safe products and accurate information to consumers.
By 2004, the tide seemed to be turning against us with the FDA’s growing power and increased hostility to any approach to health that didn’t bow down before allopathic medicine and FDA-approved drugs. At that time, we changed our name to the American Association for Health Freedom and channeled our energies into pushing back and saying No to the powers that threatened natural health. We organized a grassroots “Reform the FDA” campaign, and lobbied for the passage of an Access to Medical Treatment Act that would have guaranteed all citizens the right to the medical treatments they desired, as provided by a qualified medical professional.
About the same time, we met the folks at the Alliance for Natural Health, a UK-based organization that seemed to agree with us on just about everything. Their work in Europe since 2002 paralleled the work we were doing in the United States, and we benefited from sharing information and ideas with each other. In December of 2009, the two organizations decided to take our relationship to the next level by becoming the Alliance for Natural Health Europe and the Alliance for Natural Health USA, within the Alliance for Natural Health International.
Since 2009, ANH has been part of an international organization working to change the way that medicine is practiced globally. We are driven by the desire to shift consciousness toward a better understanding of how our connection to nature is intimately connected to our health. Through our extensive grassroots network we have won a number of key battles.
Most critically, in our country ANH-USA has played an important role in passing significant legislation that directly benefits the natural health approach while blocking legislation that threatens it. We have also filed lawsuits to accomplish the same aims.
We’ve filed petitions to ban the use of the toxic chemical BPA in cash register receipts and children’s dental devices. We’ve petitioned the USDA and FDA to oppose GMOs, and supported state bills to demand GMO labeling. These petitions are a necessary prelude to lawsuits. We’ve organized a coalition of dietitians and nutritionists to oppose the American Dietetic Association’s ties to junk food companies and anti-competitive legislation, and launched the ReallyEatRight.org website to bring the ADA’s activities to light.
And through it all, we’ve continued to bring you The Pulse of Natural Health every week, keeping you up to date on the politics of natural health and much else besides. You’ve rewarded us with your activism in our campaigns, your insightful comments on our articles, and your generous donations to make all these victories possible.
The freedoms we enjoy today are the direct result of the actions of activists like you. We will continue to work tirelessly to protect and promote natural health and freedom of choice in healthcare. As the crisis in conventional healthcare becomes increasingly evident to everyone, we have a unique opportunity to bring the word about sustainable and effective natural health options to millions of people around the world as well as our leaders at the local, state, and federal levels.