The economic factor certainly plays a role, with chiropractors struggling to survive and keep their heads above water. Many of them have indicated that they would pay the membership dues if they could afford it. And there is the selfish factor: Some doctors know they will reap the benefits of the national organizations' efforts without paying any membership dues. But it is reasonable to conclude that the above two factors alone cannot account for a 90 percent nonmembership rate. There is a third major factor that needs to be addressed. You might call it the anger and frustration factor.
History tells us that we will continue to be mercilessly attacked by the media and press, yet our national leaders have not put any "educational" mechanism into effect to effectively respond to the unfair and vicious propaganda and proactively address it before it gets out of hand. The symptoms of our profession in crisis are self-evident: Chiropractors are dropping out of practice at a faster rate than they are graduating. Canada has just removed chiropractic from its provincial health care plan as a "less critical service," claiming it will save $200 million in the next two years. And as sure as the sun rises in the morning, these negative propaganda attacks will occur again and again as we get hopelessly pummeled.
Writing angry rebuttals in chiropractic journals is certainly not the answer, since only chiropractors read them; it would be like preaching to the choir. Chiropractors express their anger and frustration toward the national leadership for their inability to effectively challenge the propaganda and correct it, and the membership drops. This is the biggest complaint I keep hearing around the country, and certainly 90 percent of them can't all be wrong.
For 109 years, chiropractors have been called ill-trained, unscientifically based, dangerous and even worse - and the stigma remains. Our profession, including our chiropractic allies from Canada, keeps losing lawsuits our nation's best legal ex-perts insist we should be winning. History is confirming that we must level the playing field in the public arena, or the legal arena will be a constant uphill battle. Deeply rooted stigma and prejudices can adversely affect courtroom decisions, since judges and juries are only human. Leveling the playing field through public education must be our top priority. We need to educate and "put the wind at our backs" for a change.
Using chiropractic spokespersons could result in our national membership growing in numbers, since there would be greater public understanding and utilization of chiropractic, and more income would flow into our profession to pay for membership dues - especially when chiropractors begin to realize that national organizations are the moving force behind this increased public acceptance and growth! The real key to success does not take money, but simply adopting a spokesperson program.
Success in the public arena is not proportional to the number of chiropractors we have as members or how much money an organization can spend. A small organization doing the right thing with a 10 percent mem-bership can outperform a large organization with 100 percent membership. We have a powerful weapon with our facts, if we use them appropriately with the media and press. I believe we grossly underestimate the true power of our fact situation and aren't embracing it, and that is the root of our problem.
The solution lies in having every state chiropractic organization carefully select the most trusted, respected, knowledgeable and articulate chiropractors in their state and giving them a title that producers of talk shows and newspaper editors will listen to and respect. Make them "Official State Chiropractic Spokespersons." The most effective way of communicating to the media and press is to bring out the many advantages of chiropractic and then advocate interprofessional cooperation, the basis of which is utilizing the best service each profession offers. Chiropractic's solid facts will more than adequately sell themselves. Spokespersons need to put chiropractic and the patients first. They become champions for honesty and balance in health care. They will not be "selling" chiropractic or "bashing" medicine, but criticizing polarization or isolation of appropriate health care. It is a solid approach that no one can effectively criticize or disapprove.
Our national associations must exert a major effort to get the state associations involved in promoting the idea of educating the public with spokespersons, just like they promote legislation and fundraising for litiga-tion. The state associations look to their national organization for leadership and guidance. The Congress of Chiropractic State Associations (COCSA) can be an excellent vehicle to promote this program with the states, but we still need the national associations providing their active support to make it become a reality.
Private individuals and authors have little or no influence with the media and press, because they generally speak for themselves. On the other hand, chiropractic spokespersons would speak for thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people. There is no question as to whom a talk show producer will give first priority, and the same applies to spokespersons being able to influence the public on radio talk shows. Their credibility factor would be of the highest degree.
There is a publication on the market available to us called the Bacon Radio and Television Directory. It provides the name of every pro-ducer of every talk show, his or her telephone number, Arbitron Rating (size of listening audience), topics covered, station or radio call letters, address, etc. These people could be directly contacted by our "official spokespersons." The information is constantly updated and makes contacting the appropriate and influential people very easy. A network of state spokespersons calling the media and press could become our "delivery system." By the way, most radio interviews are done by telephone, so our spokespersons need not leave their offices to reach thousands of people. Since guests do not pay for exposure on talk shows, a hundred chiropractic spokespersons nationally could educate the public and set the record straight in an effective and virtually cost-free manner.
There you have it. This is a gift horse on a silver chalice. All we need is for our state and national organizations to do the right thing.
Chester A. Wilk, DC
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