The Tipping Point of Public Relations for Chiropractic May Be Close at Hand
By Louis Sportelli, DC
The past few months have certainly seen a flurry of activity in the press, starting with the article in Sports Illustrated about a National Hockey League star getting chiropractic care for a concussion, to the media blitz by Anthony Field of "The Wiggles" talking about his personal experience with chiropractic, and undoubtedly more to come.With every event comes the pros and cons of the story and the ongoing debates and discussions about what we can do, should do, ought to do, might do and of course, already do.
Chiropractic in the News
A few months ago, the sports world was abuzz with questions, concerns, surprise, and yes – dismay – that one of the NHL's star players, Pittsburgh Penguin center Sidney Crosby, had received treatment from a chiropractor, Dr. Ted Carrick. As reported in the Sports Illustrated article, Crosby had been hit flush on the left side of his helmet by an opposing player, then struck again four days later. Diagnosed with a concussion, Crosby received traditional care for months with limited relief; then some of his fellow athletes began suggesting he seek alternative care – from a chiropractor!
Within a short time, Crosby was playing the first day of training camp without contact ... and without symptoms. The buzz volume was in the high-decibel level with chiropractic and Dr. Ted Carrick front-page news. Some liked it, some did not, and so it goes in chiropractic.
Then there was the "Dr. Phil" show featuring Fabrizio Mancini, DC, president of Parker University, who talked about his new book, which emphasizes the power of lifestyle and wellness. The buzz on the blogs and in chat rooms was considerable even before the program aired!
My initial observations were simply that this is a very popular show (millions of viewers), with a friendly host who used Dr. Mancini as his personal chiropractor. How much better could the stage be set? The show mentioned chiropractic in a positive way to millions of viewers who were thinking that Dr. Phil uses a chiropractor, so there must be value, and celebrity endorsements do seem to have impact. Could the entire hour have been devoted to chiropractic? Of course, but it was big time no matter how you slice it.
Additionally, as a result of the "Dr. Phil" show, another show called "The Doctors" also featured Dr. Mancini a few weeks later. The interesting thing about this show was the theme, "That pain may not be what you think." In a sense, that theme echoed the chiropractic concept of health care, in which the "total person" is looked at rather than a specific organ when attempting to treat the patient.
Will there be other shows as a result of this exposure? Of course. There is clearly increasing interest in this holistic concept of care. All in all, it was undeniable exposure for the profession.
The Foundation for Chiropractic Progress (F4CP) has been busy these past few years attempting to fulfill its mission of facilitating "positive press for chiropractic." The foundation is doing a great job with limited support (albeit growing each month), but more participation from the practitioners in the field is needed. The F4CP has some formidable spokespersons, from Jerry Rice to General Becky Halstead, and media purchases in prestigious magazines and newspapers continue. This takes time, but is making an impression.
The press releases generated by the foundation may be met with some negativity because they do not immediately fill offices with new patients, but they are designed to help increase awareness in the minds of the public. Over time, this will lead to an improved overall image and eventually, more patient consideration of chiropractic.
We have been bombarded by negative press for a hundred years; some of it justly deserved, some of our own doing, some from our enemies who wanted us eliminated ... and yet chiropractic did not go away. Will a few positive TV and magazine exposures solve all our problems? Certainly not, but the positive aspects are unquestionably greater than we have ever experienced in the past.
The Next Step?
Enter "Medical, Inc." Huh? What's "Medical, Inc.?" Well, if you have been to a Parker seminar, NCLC, or ACC/RAC in the past few months, you have heard the buzz about the "Medical, Inc." film crew circulating and showing a short snippet, a "trailer." [Dynamic Chiropractic aired an initial trailer at Parker Seminars Las Vegas in January and reported on the in-the-works documentary in the Jan. 1, 2012 issue. The current trailer and additional information regarding the documentary can be seen at www.medicalincmovie.com.]
It was clear from the trailer that the documentary focuses on several things, at minimum: identifying the issues involved with the Wilk v AMA litigation and highlighting an alternative way to think about drugs. Giving the public a proper perspective about health is a good way to phrase the purpose of the project.
As of press time, the documentary is scheduled to be completed this summer. The producer and director have total control of content, format, storyline and finished product. This complete control and independence provide the profession with the freedom to discuss the film knowing there is absolutely no "influence" exerted on the filmmakers. This removes any suggestion that the chiropractic profession had anything to do with content or intent. The merit of the producer and director can be determined by the quality of prior documentaries they have generated. [Visit the "Medical, Inc." Web site to review producer / director biographies.]
I have spoken to a number of folks who have some concern, some reservations, some angst, some discomfort at the prospect of having a documentary that reveals the monopoly created by the AMA and the pharmaceutical industry, not to mention the "disturbing drugging of America." From DTC (direct to consumer) and OTC (over the counter), to PTP (prescription to patient) and SCT (street corner transactions), the overuse, misuse and abuse of drugs is having a serious impact on society and health. I did not see, in any of the trailers, any evidence that "clinical" medicine is under any attack, and no evidence to suggest that there would be any change in that philosophy.
My Chiropractic Take
Here are some observations and personal thoughts from my 50 years of involvement in chiropractic activities. There are some DCs who will find this documentary, or any attempt at exposing both the illegal "conspiracy" of the AMA to "contain and eliminate" chiropractic and the vulnerability of the pharmaceutical industry, "scary" because it may destroy fragile "relationships" between the medical and chiropractic community, and thus harm cooperative interdisciplinary progress. These fears might be understandable if the chiropractic profession had commissioned this documentary with the intent of a malicious attack. The profession did not, and therefore I strongly and respectfully disagree with a view that suggests this will harm relationships.
There is no need for the chiropractic profession to be fearful of truthfully exposing what "political medicine" has specifically done to the chiropractic profession. More importantly, the unforgivable assaults they committed on our profession by utilizing a systematic propaganda smear campaign, designed and calculated to prevent millions of people from seeking help from a chiropractor, was so pervasive that the lingering effects are felt even today. Those actions deserve to be exposed.
If some medical doctors are offended by this exposé of documented historical wrongdoings, they would never be our friends anyway. Those in the medical community who are our friends will see this documentary as perhaps a way to help the health care system adopt a new paradigm. The documentary will hopefully shine a light on how the health care system has developed into a broken system; one in which the AMA they once trusted is in dire need of transforming to advocate a health model, rather than a disease model.
Just for the record, from discussions with the producer and director, my impression is that the takeaway message from the documentary is not that medical doctors and drugs be abolished. Their opinion seemed to be that prudent use and awareness of the detrimental side effects of drugs be made transparent, and that patients should be informed of all the alternatives. Their position seems reasonable and rational.
No Better Time Than Now?
As with all things, timing is everything. From the Supreme Court intervention about the constitutionality of Obamacare, to the recognition that the economics of health care are unsustainable, to the several highly publicized celebrity deaths from drugs in recent months that captured media attention, the focus on drugs is front and center.
What perfect timing for this documentary on the heels of these high-profile, explosive events. Our over-drugged, over-alcoholed, over-stimulated, over-indulged culture and unhealthy lifestyle have grave consequences. Perhaps "Medical, Inc." will help raise awareness about the need to consider alternative possibilities. We may have an opportunity, if we are fortunate, for media exposure to tell a totally different narrative about health and wellness without the need to justify our alternative approach.
Personally, I believe any exposé that is done with integrity and factually represents the issues will provide a healthy environment for "integration" to take place at a faster rate than would have been possible without knowledge of the conspiracy. Exposing the AMA conspiracy against chiropractic does not denounce "clinical" medicine, which is the aspect of medicine with which the chiropractic community is engaged. Our decades-long fight has been with political medicine because of its despicable, clandestine conspiracy to "contain and eliminate" the chiropractic profession.
In keeping with full disclosure, I have been interviewed for this film, as have dozens of other doctors of chiropractic, patients, medical physicians and researchers throughout the United States. Can you imagine the task of taking hundreds of hours of videotaped interviews and reducing those interviews to a 90-minute documentary that is cogent, convincing, captivating and most of all, credible to capture the hearts and minds of the viewer to think differently? I would not want the overwhelming task of deciding what gets left on the cutting-room floor and what becomes part of a story to change our attitude about health care.
I have no doubt that this documentary will raise a few eyebrows and generate a few gasps, but if it gives even one – just one – sick patient the opportunity to have a better quality of life by being exposed to an alternative health care model, all the negatives will have been worth it. My hopes are that the outcome will be a documentary which can energize the profession and help change public perception.
What we do know is this: The millions of potential patients who have never considered chiropractic need an opportunity to be exposed to another option. My hopes and prayers are that this documentary will do just that.
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