In the month of January, I will hear myself say “Happy New Year” 300 times, at least. As a pathological optimist, I welcome this annual fresh start, though I will pass on constructing a long list of resolutions.  Instead, I am making a commitment that the Organic & Natural Health Association will take actions to inspire results, thus, creating that “happy year” we all seek. Last year’s barrage of negative press and heated rhetoric regarding dietary supplements requires engagement in a proactive effort to demonstrate safety and efficacy. Our goal for 2016 is to actively support and promote research that documents how nutrients improve health status and prevent disease.

We will undertake this effort with our partner, Grassroots Health (GRH). GRH is a nonprofit public health research organization dedicated to changing health care outcomes by using the results of research conducted by a panel of more than 50 senior vitamin D researchers from around the world, with the support of more than 10,000 people who participate in their programs. In November, GRH co-authored a research paper with the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), documenting that women with vitamin D levels of 40-60 ng/ml have a 46% lower preterm birth rate than the general population. Making simple changes to the standard of care, as MUSC has done, could help prevent 225,000 preterm births a year and save upwards of $6 billion annually. The power of these demonstrated results is bringing practitioners, insurers and policy makers to a common table. We are working with GRH now to expand this program to new locations across the country.

In 2016, Organic & Natural will work with GRH to promote the amazing impact vitamin D has on a wide variety of health issues ranging from pre-term births, to breast cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. And we won’t stop with vitamin D. GRH’s eight years of nutrient profile data, including dosage and lab results, will expand to monitor health status and outcomes of key nutrients deficiencies, including magnesium, vitamin K and calcium, to name a few. This population-based research approach for nutrients is a solution to the many problems and limitations of ‘gold standard’ randomized clinical trials, generating results faster and with far less expense while garnering the support of consumers along the way.

Our efforts to support increased dollars spent on research and development were bolstered when Congress passed major tax and spending bills before the holiday recess. Of particular relevance is the now-permanent tax credits for research and development. Members of Organic & Natural will have access to the services of a national firm specializing in these issues and can avail themselves of potential saving through a three-year review of research efforts.

Our work takes many forms, all rooted in ensuring the creation of a sustainable future. We believe our research agenda is transformative, serving to build credibility, enabling advocacy for true health care interests and improving health status. And, that would make for a mighty fine year.

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.

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NOTE: The opinions presented here are those of the writer.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine Online, 1/4/2016