By Mark Land, AAHP President
People imagine “Public Affairs” as meaning fancy-suited lobbyists manipulating legislators in ways that don’t benefit the public. This oversimplifies the process and is demeaning to not only lobbyists but our elected officials and their staff as well. AAHP began a public affairs program more than 10 years ago. The motivation was to have surveillance on the legislature in order to be aware of legislation that might affect homeopathic products.
We took the first six months of the program to develop messaging points about homeopathy, homeopathic products, and their regulation. The goal and messaging have changed very little over the years: simply educate legislators and staff on this unique segment of self-care. Most meetings with legislative offices are educational in nature, emphasizing the key benefits of our member companies’ products.
The principal audiences on Capitol Hill for our messages are the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) and the House Committee on Energy and Commerce (E&C). These two committees have oversight authority over legislation involving FDA. Committee leadership in both houses of Congress have professional healthcare staff that analyzes and develops legislation and advises the legislator. Members of the committees also have healthcare staffers responsible for meeting constituents and other interested parties on issues related to healthcare.
Legislative healthcare staff is well-qualified, and capable individuals with multiple sources of information on issues under their responsibility. Therefore, the public image that they are defenseless against special interest groups does not do them justice. In the case of Senate HELP or House E&C, staffers are in direct communication with FDA or other agencies to vet representations and recommendations of the people whom they meet.
Over the years, AAHP has been successful in helping legislators and government agencies avoid unintended adverse consequences of legislation on homeopathic products. In all cases, it has been with the full agreement of the legislators and agencies involved.
In this issue of the AAHP Network News newsletter, Pete Evich of Van Scoyoc Associates gives us more on the history and philosophy of AAHP’s public affairs program.
You can participate too. Contact AAHP if you would like to attend a meeting with one of your legislators. Many meetings these days are in a virtual format, so you can be heard and have a “seat at the table” right from your office.