Dr. Croft: I understand that you have founded a somewhat unique chiropractic organization in San Diego called the CHF. Can you tell me something about it?
Dr. Argyelan: The CHF or Chiropractic Health Foundation was developed to increase public awareness of the benefits of chiropractic and preventive health care. To accomplish this goal, it is developing a number of programs including an aggressive marketing campaign, a comprehensive public and professional education program, a program to support chiropractic research, and a public charity program.
Dr. Croft: These seem like endeavors of other organizations. What makes the CHF unique?
Dr. Argyelan: I think we could all agree that public utilization of chiropractic is a high priority. Most of our professional associations however are working with an agenda that varies from the intent of the CHF. Our professional associations must be concerned with membership, with legislation that impacts on the profession, and with educating its members. They must provide tangible benefits to membership as well as protect their interests. The CHF is not membership driven. It is a public benefit entity which affords it a more desirable tax status.
Dr. Croft: How does a tax status fit into the plans of the Foundation, and what benefit does it provide?
Dr. Argyelan: The CHF has been granted a 501(c)(3) tax status by the IRS, designating it as a public benefit corporation to which public contributions are considered a charitable, tax deductible donation. This allows the CHF to seek public funding. It allows the CHF to solicit public contribution, apply and receive philanthropic grants, corporate sector partnerships, and function within society as a public interest rather than special interest organization.
Dr. Croft: How does that fit in with the mission of the Chiropractic Health Foundation?
Dr. Argyelan: If, as I said, the purpose of the CHF is to increase public awareness of preventive health care and the benefits of chiropractic, then the accomplishment of that purpose will take manpower, innovative programs, research, and education. All of these require funding. For most of our chiropractic organizations, fund development too often centers around the solicitation of practitioners and while indeed they have a certain amount of self-interest involved, to continually ask doctors to contribute to our causes will one day deplete such resources. Besides, DCs already believe in their cause so to get the public to financially support our endeavors is to get the public to "buy into" chiropractic. This creates greater awareness of chiropractic as well as a sense of public ownership.
Dr. Croft: In other words, by creating an opportunity for the public to make charitable contributions to the CHF, one creates greater awareness of preventive health care benefits while having that same public be financially supportive of its programs.
Dr. Argyelan: Exactly. There is an added benefit to the CHF's programs in that the Foundation also will serve as a charitable donor. With the funds it raises, the Foundation will be in a position to make grants to community programs, particularly where such grants can be used to support programs which work within the mission of the CHF. By becoming a public entity, working within a community for the benefit of that community, the CHF is able to integrate the concept of chiropractic into public opinion and do so in a positive manner.
Dr. Croft: Could you give me an example?
Dr. Argyelan: Let's say that the CHF raises $50,000 through either a special event or the receipt of a philanthropic grant. That's $50,000 raised from the public sector and which demonstrates a public commitment to the concepts of the CHF -- preventive health care and the benefits of chiropractic. With that $50,000, the CHF is able to use some of the funds towards a public education program, a program which again espouses the mission of the CHF. It can also use some of the funds to make a grant to a community program, such as a teacher's organization to improve public education, so that program can conduct a public health care seminar. By doing this, the CHF is able to not only increase the awareness of chiropractic in this teacher organization, but also further enhance public education concerning health care issues. Thus we develop community support. There is also the public relations benefit of conducting such a mission, because each step along the way, media and news stories will be created which portrays our profession in a positive light. When enough positive PR is created, there occurs a balance in the public perception to the negative news which attacks chiropractic.
Dr. Croft: You've mentioned research before. How does that fit in with goals of the Foundation?
Dr. Argyelan: I certainly don't need to tell you of the research which is being done that, when successful, will prove the efficacy of chiropractic. Nor would I tell you that the CHF is getting into the research business. Rather, the CHF position on research is to be both supportive of it (in attempting to locate funding), and to serve as a vehicle to disseminate research conclusions to the public. When our researchers publish their findings, it gets published in our professional journals, but never in a public forum. Research is, without a doubt, one of our most valuable assets, not only of clinical value, but also valuable in altering public perception of chiropractic.
Dr. Croft: I remember being excited when the British Medical Journal published its findings on low back pain. I also remember being disappointed that little was done to have those findings reach the public arena for discussion. It seems that even when we create noteworthy news, we have a tendency to share it amongst ourselves to the exclusion of the general public, who would most benefit from such knowledge.
Dr. Argyelan: Perhaps that best explains why the CHF was founded and how it is different from other chiropractic organizations. The CHF's mission is to educate the public, rather than educating ourselves, to create a positive public perception of chiropractic rather than simply working within the profession. Organizations cannot do everything for all people, so to expect our professional organizations to provide member benefits and practice protection while at the same time working to create public perception, is simply expecting too much.
Dr. Croft: How is it that you came to create the CHF?
Dr. Argyelan: Basically, I saw a need for chiropractic to become more involved in the public, not on an individual practitioner basis, but rather on an organizational one. How many times have we picked up a trade magazine and viewed an advertisement by a chiropractic college? We too often spend our time and money preaching to the choir. We need to get the message out to the public where it will do the most good. The way to do that is not simply through marketing with full-page advertisements but instead to become involved with communities, involved with the individual lives of people who comprise our communities. It is their perception that matters most. They are the future students of chiropractic, the consumers of chiropractic, and ultimately the market force which will dictate chiropractic's involvement in the health care delivery system.
Dr. Croft: It seems to me to be a sound strategy but how far do you hope to go with it?
Dr. Argyelan: The CHF is not my possession, rather it should be viewed as a vehicle to bring chiropractic's message to the public and give that public ownership of the benefits of chiropractic. It is a vehicle for shaping public perception in a positive manner, educating the public of research findings, and assisting the public in becoming more aware of the benefits of preventive health care. The concept of the CHF can and perhaps should be created in each state. Chiropractic nonprofit organizations can be created for the betterment of the public and the continued growth and development of the chiropractic profession.
Our profession has taken more than its fair share of criticism lately in the media. Our detractors are more active than ever. I believe that we should focus our efforts on positive public relations rather than spending all our time on damage control. After all, the only reason that the public is likely to be affected by programs like the recent "20/20" segment is that we haven't really told them what chiropractic is and what research is uncovering. If they knew, they would most likely say, "No, that's not how I perceive chiropractic." Newspaper articles and Consumer Reports types of magazine articles cost nothing. Television and radio exposure can also be secured at no cost. Most importantly, the public perceives expensive advertising as being clearly biased, whereas news media coverage is usually considered honest and unbiased. The recent press release on cervical manipulation and stroke appeared simultaneously in almost every newspaper in the country, and serves as an example of how much mileage one can get out of a story. We really can't afford to pass up such golden opportunities to show chiropractic in a good light. The AMA learned a long time ago, how to take advantage of public relations. I think its high time we follow suit. I hope other societies follow Dr. Argyelan's example.
Editor's note: Dr. Robert Argyelan can be reached at (619) 440-4035.
Arthur Croft, DC, MS, FACO
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