Victory for the State of Health

I’m writing to you on Nov. 3, 2020, Election Day, from my kitchen counter in Washington, D.C. It’s the place I’ve called home for 37 years, and in some ways, it is barely recognizable. The eerily quiet streets of downtown Georgetown and other cityscapes are lined with plywood-covered shops. During the dead of night, non-scalable fencing was erected around the White House. Helicopters fly low, checking for radiation levels—apparently common practice for security and emergency preparedness in D.C. Almost 100 million people across the country, including me, have already voted, representing more than two-thirds of the total number of ballots cast in 2016. Fresh off my 6 a.m. run, what I see around me is the many ways resilient human beings act to take control of their lives. Whether you vote at home, board up your business or protest in public, you’re taking control. When you choose to wear a mask or not and elect to shop online or at your neighborhood store, you’re taking control.   

I could not foresee the outcome as you read this weeks later, or how you fared with the newly coined Election Stress Disorder. I can surmise that there is still great division; uncertainty about our future; and fear about the risk of illness and COVID-19. We’ve exercised our right to vote, and we may now be more aware of our vulnerability. As we approach the holiday season, the big question is, “what now? What does control look like for you, your extended family and the customers you serve? How can you make a difference at a time when we all need to be putting our best foot forward? 

I suspect the general public will never again be this interested in learning about how to best improve their health status. Especially for those who suffer the highest risk of COVID-19 from underlying conditions like chronic lung disease, serious heart conditions, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes.   

The words of former CDC Chief, Dr. Tom Friedan, bear repeating: “Vitamin D supplementation reduces the risk of respiratory infection, regulates cytokine production and can limit the risk of other viruses such as influenza. A respiratory infection can result in cytokine storms—a vicious cycle in which our inflammatory cells damage organs throughout the body—which increase mortality for those with COVID-19.” 

Yes, each of these conditions are closely linked to vitamin D deficiency. We also know, without a doubt, Black Americans have a COVID-19 death rate 2.3 times that of white and Asian Americans who have the lowest death rates. Adjust the data for age differences, and the death rate for Black people is 3.7 times higher than whites (1). And yes, vitamin D deficiency is more prevalent among African Americans compared to other races. Even in North America, most young, healthy Black people do not achieve what scientists consider an optimal blood serum level, which is defined as 30 ng/ml by the Institutes of Medicine at any time of year (2).

At the end of the day, we know what will make a difference. We know what will help those who have diseases that in turn increase their risk for COVID-19. We know how to support the elderly who have been quarantined from family for so long that their emotional and physical health suffers. We know what people can do to lower their risk of contraction, but as such, have a higher risk of sharing the disease with those they know and love. People need the knowledge and education about the power of the immune system and vitamin D.   

Your commitment to natural health and wellbeing as practitioners, natural foods stores, dietary supplement companies, and those who support the supply chain, is evident in the quality products produced and sold. The data is there. The products are safe and effective. For far too long, consumers have relied on pharmaceuticals to manage their health conditions versus building a strong immune system. The research, science and retrospective reviews of deaths from COVID-19 demonstrate how the little vitamin that could,vitamin D, is a cornerstone to good health. And yet, naysayers continue an old mantra that vitamin D can’t be given in high doses, isn’t important enough to warrant testing levels, etc. 

This is our time. We need to teach every person in our circle of influence about the power of vitamin D. Perhaps the future looks bleak or the cause you support may be in jeopardy. The ability to thrive financially and emotionally may feel remote. That’s when we must remember we choose to be a part of this industry for the sake of something larger; for the sake of future generations and to honor the wisdom of those that brought us to this place. So I’ll conclude with this comment: No matter what the outcome of the election, I promise I will continue to show people a new way to be healthy, to promote O&N’s Get On My Level Campaign, and to change the healthcare paradigm to one rooted in health, not disease. There is an end to an election, and hopefully a pandemic. There is no end to this work. I for one will be buying vitamin D test kits as gifts for the holidays! Won’t you join me?  

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Karen Howard, CEO and Executive Director of Organic & Natural Health Association is a visionary and results-focused leader who has spent more than 30 years working with Congress, state legislatures and healthcare organizations to develop innovative healthcare policy and programs. She has held a variety of executive positions, including serving as professional staff for a Congressional committee, and has policy expertise in the diverse areas of integrative and complementary medicine, managed care, healthcare technology and mental health. An advocate at heart, she has worked to strategically advance the mission and vision of organizations through effective advocacy and strong collaboration. Prior to Organic & Natural Health, Howard served as executive director for both the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) and the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Schools. During her nearly 10-year tenure at AANP, she built a sustainable infrastructure, significantly improved financial performance, established a strong federal presence and supported multiple state association advocacy efforts for licensure. Also during this time, the naturopathic medicine profession established itself as a key component of comprehensive healthcare for the future.