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A History: Charting the Future

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Alive is proud of its internationally acclaimed reputation as a leader in natural health, and an advocate for its many millions of readers.

alive is proud of its internationally acclaimed reputation as a leader in natural health, and an advocate for its many millions of readers. Every organization requires a vision. Ours is clear: “to educate, motivate, and support people to become skilled stewards of their health.”

But having a vision doesn’t just mean looking forward. A truly healthy organization looks to its past, as well as to its future. It understands where it comes from, so that it knows where it is; it understands where it is, so that it knows where it’s going; and it understands where it’s going so that it can chart the way ahead.

Which brings us to alive. After 250 issues, 28 years, and 40 million readers, now is a fitting time for us to see where our vision has taken us and where it will continue to take us.

Looking Back

When alive began life in Siegfried Gursche’s basement suite, few people had ever heard of natural health. The media mistakenly portrayed it as an irrelevancy, a holdover from the days of the hippies and flower power.

In fact, as those first few issues of alive strove to demonstrate, natural health was an age-old, proven system of healing that had helped countless people over many millennia. Unfortunately, a century of allopathic medicine–with its narrow focus on illness instead of wellness and its aggressive use of drugs and surgery–had reduced it to barely a flicker in the public’s consciousness.

The advent of alive changed all that. At last, Canadians who had become disenchanted with conventional medicine, learned about a sensible holistic alternative that actually helped make them healthier, rather than simply attending to their ailments, and that fully included them in the process. The magazine re-ignited people’s interest in natural health.

As alive flourished, the organization behind it branched out into other areas. In the 1980s, it started publishing the series of alive Natural Health Guides, a library of books on various health-and-wellness subjects. The guides quickly became a fixture in Canadian health food stores and are now sold on five continents.

Then, in 1992, alive established the Academy of Natural Health, a distance-learning program for people pursuing careers in alternative medicine. A year later, it inaugurated the alive Awards of Excellence to recognize outstanding natural health products and services. Collectively, these initiatives helped to nurture Canada’s burgeoning natural health industry.

By the end of the 1990s, the time had come for a major reference work on natural health. After five years and $1.5-million worth of research, alive unveiled the monumental Encyclopedia of Natural Healing. The first book on health ever to win the prestigious Benjamin Franklin Award; it firmly established alive’s credentials as one of the top natural health publishers in North America.

More Than Just Publishers

But alive has always been more than just a publisher of books and magazines. As the voice of the Canadian natural health movement, it goes beyond simply informing people to taking bold stands on health-related issues.

Long before the banes of pollution and poor indoor air quality made headlines in the mainstream media, alive published articles throughout the 1970s and ’80s warning of the dangers of harmful chemicals and toxins in the environment. A decade later, it helped to put labelling of genetically modified foods on the public agenda.

More recently, alive was among the first Canadian publications to alert people to the potential for disaster within the commercial livestock industry. Today, it continues to take the lead–not to mention a genuine risk–in exposing the debilitating effects of processed foods on the overall health of society.

All the while, alive has stood sentry over the right of Canadians to make informed decisions on matters affecting their health. Whenever Health Canada issued an unwarranted, draconian ruling on a supplement or other natural health product or service, alive spoke out for those whose health would suffer as a result. alive consistently championed and spearheaded fund-raising campaigns of courageous doctors–like environmental medicine practitioner Josef Krop–who found themselves persecuted simply for offering their patients the full range of options available in pursuit of wellness.

Besides being a voice, alive is also a community. Since our inception, we’ve been blessed with exceptionally savvy, well-informed readers, whose input makes up an integral part of the magazine. Your sometimes angry, sometimes flattering, always interesting letters tell us what we’re doing right and what we’re doing wrong–and that you’re still reading us.

Our unique reader-magazine dynamic has attracted a stellar cast of more than 400 contributors and editorial advisors over the years. Authors such as Udo Erasmus, Michael T. Murray, Carolyn Dean, Franco Cavaleri, Lorna Vanderhaeghe, Julian Whitaker, and David Suzuki, to mention but a few, have all graced the pages of alive.

The Present

With natural health now widely viewed as a viable complement to traditional medicine, alive has embarked on a new wave of innovative projects within the past year. These continue to honour the alive vision of empowering and assisting people on their journey to optimal health, while taking full advantage of new technology and changing attitudes toward personal wellness.

In less than a decade, the World Wide Web has emerged as the single most important tool for disseminating health news and advice. Searching for health information is listed as one of the top five reasons people log on to the Internet.

Last year, alive created a comprehensive online resource–alive.com–that seeks to answer every conceivable question people may have about natural health. Visitors can assess their overall health by taking the Health Quotient Test, sift through a tantalizing menu of whole-food recipes, or look up a vast array of health topics in the alive archives and the online version of the Encyclopedia of Natural Healing.

Alive.com serves as the portal for another new initiative, alive Health Coaching. Using the Internet and the telephone as its primary means of communication, this effective, affordable program makes coaching on nutrition, exercise, and emotional health accessible to millions of people who might not otherwise get to address their pressing health problems or to meet their most critical health goals.

As part of our online initiatives, we’re also continuing to foster our longstanding partnership with Canadian health food stores. Through our IOS (Internet Online Services) e-commerce program, they can integrate their operating software with alive.com and offer value-added service to their customers.

Nor have we forgotten our first and foremost project, alive magazine. Last year, we redesigned the magazine and added many new features. Soon, the updated alive will be going where few Canadian publications have ever ventured–to the Caribbean and the Middle East. While we may be treading on new ground, the vision with which we will approach it remains the same: “to educate, to motivate, and to support.”

The Future

After 250 issues, alive isn’t yet ready to rest. Though we have accomplished a great deal over the past 28 years, we still have a lot more work left to do.

First, to “educate.” While surveys show that nearly half of all Canadians use natural remedies or alternative therapies, our own research indicates that only 25 percent are fully conscious of all the benefits of natural health. Our task of educating people, whether on the printed page or on the World Wide Web, remains as vital as ever.

Second, to “motivate.” People may know what they need to do to become healthier, but if they don’t feel motivated to put it into practice, then what’s the point? Cognizant of that fact, we will continue developing programs like alive Health Coaching and gearing editorial content to getting hearts, as well as heads, involved in the health process.

Third, to “support.” Above all else, we support your right to be respected as the steward of your own health. But we realize that this right also carries great responsibility. That’s why we try to equip you with the knowledge, skills, and other supports you need to treasure and nourish the gift of health you have been given.

The Bottom Line

Unfortunately, many people have abdicated responsibility for their health. They’ve put their faith in the medical system, believing that it will save them when their bodies fail them after years of neglect. The consequence has been a frightening increase in diseases such as cancer and heart disease and in chronic conditions such as diabetes and obesity.

The world we envision is one in which everyone can fulfill their potential–beginning with the potential to achieve optimal health.

If one word could be used to describe alive–aside from “health?it would be “vision.” Of course, alive has changed with the times. But its vision of educating, motivating, and supporting people to become skilled stewards of their health hasn’t changed. In fact, it grows clearer with every initiative that we undertake and every issue that we put out.

For us, your health is, was, and will continue to be, our bottom line.

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