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Alternative Health Resource

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Alternative Health Resource

There are many reasons why Health Action Network Society (HANS) exists, and they each have a name and a face.

There are many reasons why Health Action Network Society (HANS) exists, and they each have a name and a face.

Founding member and executive director Lorna Hancock is one of the faces that has kept this alternative resource going. She, in turn, has memories of the faces that sparked her drive to establish and maintain an alternative health resource.

Over 20 years ago, Hancock had a friend who had a nervous break down. The woman ended up on eight different prescription medications. She finally committed suicide.

"I had a resentment," says Hancock. "Where were the other choices like nutritional or herbal medicine? She never knew she had a choice."

Hancock has other stories of the lack of choice destroying lives. So, in her basement suite, (the meeting room was next to the laundryroom!) she and 14 other founding members gathered to decide what they could do about informing people about the alternatives to mainstream medicine.

It took a good five years to work through the logistics. But in July, 1984, Health Action Network was officially born. Now the society is based in an office in Burnaby, BC. A representative in Manitoba also works under the HANS banner, primarily in the area of preventive dentistry.

A Mission and a Statement
The mission of HANS is to promote and protect health and well being, Hancock says with a smile. Why the smile?

"Health Canada has almost the identical mission, word for word," she says. "But HANS is coming from a consumer perspective--the government is heavily weighted in the corporate world."

The society’s primary goal is to act as a resource for those looking to explore their choices. They maintain a library full of scientific material, news clippings and books on alternative health from around the world. HANS also puts on forums to educate people on such issues as natural products regulation. It also lobbies for government acknowledgement of natural healing products and practices.

Behind the scenes, HANS works with many medical doctors, which Hancock calls "closet MDs."

"We’re pro-doctor," she says. "It’s the structure that is wrong. The way we have things set up is old--it’s time for [the] to have a new vision."

Hancock recently submitted some ideas for this vision to the Health Professions Council of BC, when it was touring BC to study ways of regulating alternative therapies. Among other things, she pointed out that The Office of Technology assessment of the United States government shows that only approximately 10 per cent of all practices used in a medical office actually conform to the scientific model.

"I’ve never seen a room full of bureaucrats and academics stop breathing at the same moment!" she says with a laugh.

It’s towards moments like this--opportunities to instigate change--that the volunteers and members are working.

Volunteer Power
The society relies on six core staff and dozens of volunteers (15,000 volunteer hours were logged last year).

Thelma MacAdam is one of these volunteers. She was recently featured in Sweeping the Planet: Women Taking Action for a Healthy Planet. The book is a collection of essays by and interviews with women around the world who have worked tirelessly to protect the environment and our health.

MacAdam, a long-time member of HANS, describes herself as a mother, a grandmother and a concerned citizen of the world. She is legendary for her work against pesticides. At HANS, it’s become a catch phrase to describe a moment of true, uncompromising grit as a "MacAdam Moment!"

One of her most memorable successes was organizing a group of neighbors to fly helium balloons to prevent planes from spraying their land.

Like many--or even most--of health action network volunteers, MacAdam doesn’t have a string of letters behind her name. She points out that experts usually quote other experts, which is exactly what she does.

"All you need is the interest and the ability to read and comprehend," she says.

That’s where the resources that HANS collects come in. Anyone with a question can phone or come to the office and a member will look up the answer to the best of her ability.

"We get information from everywhere from Europe to Brazil--our members are our eyes and ears," says Hancock. "That’s not a picture Canadians can get everyday."

Unfortunately, not even HANS can provide this picture every day. They are funded by memberships ($35/year), donations and the occasional grant. Right now, they have just enough volunteers and money to keep the library open two days a week. Hancock says the society always welcomes new members, new volunteers and donations of books or money--charitable receipts will be given. (Amounts for books are based on resale value.)

Hancock isn’t surprised that the society is still around 20 years later, in spite of the funding uncertainties. She says they set out from the start to build an organization that would still be around decades later.

"We started as a team and we’re still a team."

To contact Health Action Network Society call (888) 432-4267 or (604) 435-0512 or write to #202-5262 Rumble St, Burnaby BC, V5J 2B6.

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