The past few years have been very busy for homeopathy. With the emergence of our current global situation and the rise of homeopathic help-lines like homeopathyhelpnow.com, more and more people are discovering homeopathy and using it for themselves and their families. As its popularity grows, homeopathy also faces new roadblocks, especially the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Draft Guidance first released in December of 2017. This Draft Guidance gave the FDA the power to withdraw any homeopathic medicine from the marketplace at any time without having to provide justification. To meet this challenge, a grassroots advocacy organization called Americans for Homeopathy Choice (AFHC) was developed and works to keep remedies available to the American consumer. Below is an interview with Laura Held and Kaylee Braz, two AFHC volunteers who are vital to its inception and current operations.
Thank you both for meeting to discuss the important advocacy work of AFHC. How did you initially get involved?
Laura: “It was back in the Summer of 2018. I had just started getting into homeopathy. I could see the threat and decided to reach out to my legislators to get involved. The rest is history. I was a go-getter mom.”
Kaylee: “I co-founded AFHC (with Paola Brown) and remember vividly when the Draft Guidance came out over Christmas 2017. We couldn’t believe what was happening and decided to get involved. We haven’t stopped since.”
Laura: “Americans for Homeopathy Choice was formed because of the FDA’s Draft Guidance; that was the only reason it was formed.”
What is the threat the Draft Guidance poses to homeopathy and consumer access to remedies?
Laura: “Well I have no doubt that the Draft Guidance would have been finalized long ago without efforts of AFHC. If that would have happened, that means that homeopathic medicines would be considered new drugs and subject to a new drug application. Without going through the new drug application, they’re technically illegal and FDA can pull them (from the stores) at any time without any justification. The FDA has publicly made comments about certain medicines they’re concerned about – like Nux-Vomica, Aconite, Belladonna, and Gelsemium – all very important medicines. As consumers and homeopaths, we know the loss of one remedy is not acceptable because there aren’t any available alternatives for that unique substance.”
So, you’re a fledgling, grassroots homeopathy advocacy organization. How did you get things off the ground?
Laura: “When we first started, we had a few meetings with the FDA. They were mid-level people.”
Kaylee: “They were employees who were not going to be very influential in what we were trying to do.”
Laura: “And we were just getting started too and didn’t have any reputation yet. But then when we organized our Homeopathy on the Hill event last April 2019, we were able to get over 150 people to come. We had over 180 appointments with congressional offices between the senate and the house. While there, our president (Paola Brown) got email from a senior drug regulator from the FDA asking if she would like to meet. I have no doubt that our efforts in Congress last April and leading up to April directly resulted in getting that meeting and changing the course of our relationship with the FDA. The work we’re doing through the advocacy team and building relationships is key to the success of AFHC. We need more people to fill all roles so we can fulfill the long-term goal of protecting homeopathy.”
Kaylee: “It has been pretty powerful seeing the fact that we were able to become the mother-base and the resource for people to gain confidence to do these things. Watching those moms transform when we were in Washington DC was incredible. When everybody got there, everyone was so shy and afraid, and after the training, everyone was like, “Yeah! I can do this!” It was amazing. Nobody has been able to do this before.”
So, now that AFHC has been active for a few years, how has your mission evolved and what are some new grassroots efforts to continue your advocacy work and protect homeopathy?
Laura: We have developed the HAT team (“Homeopathy Action Team”) which has three arms: 1) media relations, 2) congressional advocacy, and 3) public education. For a complete description of all the roles, you can visit https://homeopathychoice.org/homeopathy-action-team. For the past year, our focus has been growing the advocacy team, the second arm of the HAT team.
“With regards to our congressional advocacy efforts, our goal is to be a credible resource for legislators on the topic of homeopathy. We have developed our AFHC Research Compendium (https://homeopathychoice.org/research), which is a great resource and gives sources for homeopathic clinical trials and other scientific data that supports our cause.”
“We have developed three different roles for our Congressional Advocacy arm: the leads, the state captains, and the advocacy team members. Our goal is to get someone to be the lead for every house (435) and senate (100) office. That person will be the main relationship builder with that office and serve as a credible resource for that legislator on the subject of homeopathy. AFHC has a unique opportunity to have a unified message across all offices in Congress. The lead will maintain contact with that office with updates and keep them up to date on news and developments in homeopathy. They will go to town halls and campaign events to serve as a voice for homeopathy on the local level (although some of that isn’t happening right now).”
So, the leads are the people on the ground working with their state politicians?
Laura: “Yes. To manage these 535 people, we created the “state captain” role. We have about 30 right now. That person is in charge of recruiting leads for their state and getting people trained and able to help disseminate information from AFHC to the leads, getting the leads trained, and answering questions. For any of these roles, you don’t have to be a practitioner to help on our advocacy team. We hope to get one state captain in every state.”
“Finally, the advocacy team member is our newest role. This is for people who don’t necessarily want to take that lead role in developing that relationship with their congressional office but want to be kept in loop on action alerts and if there are emails/phone calls they can be making. That expanded our ability to grow even beyond the 535. So, we have a really solid infrastructure in place now to be able to grow our advocacy team. AFHC provides leads and state captains with everything they need to do this job. We provide all the talking points, action alerts, and resources they’ll need to start their work. Volunteers only need to help for 4 hours per month, so it’s very doable.”
Kaylee: “Laura was crucial in getting all of this set up and organized. Before Laura came along, we had no idea how to actually make that work. It seemed like such a daunting project to tackle.”
Kaylee, where are you focusing your efforts with social media as a way of promoting homeopathy, what kind of obstacles are there, and how are you able to reach the maximum amount of people to promote advocacy and awareness?
Kaylee: “Our presence on Facebook was really influential in getting the mass amount of comments in to the FDA. It was especially important in the beginning before we had additional help from other organizations and enough funding to get signatures on a more widespread level. Facebook was huge because that is where the majority of moms are on right now. We were able to get information out about what was happening with the FDA, what the concern and threat was with the Draft Guidance, and what they could do to help. It can be intimidating for moms with multiple kids or people busy at work. We were able to inform people that it was a simple process and let them know how they could help by providing the links. We tried to make it as simple as possible. We grew pretty quickly, which was really exciting being able to get the word out. I do not know any other way we would have been able to reach as many people as we did in the beginning.
“In the training, we also teach people how to get the word out on their social media. There are so many incredible volunteers making the continued outreach and growth of AFHC on social media.”
Laura: “It really is a bipartisan issue. It’s healthcare.”
Is the work of AFHC mission especially relevant in 2020?
Laura: “Now more than ever we need more options for our healthcare. We do have options; we have safe effective and affordable options. Unfortunately, there is not the level of awareness about all these other options, and that is a huge part about our work. Advocacy is about bringing awareness about those options.
“Homeopathy has a strong history being helpful in epidemics. It would be a mistake not to fully explore how homeopathy has been helpful in this current epidemic.”
How can people get involved?
- People can find out more about volunteering by going to https://homeopathychoice.org/volunteer/, and if they’d like to know more about the different areas we have for volunteer work, they can visit https://homeopathychoice.org/homeopathy-action-team/.