Guest blog: A new venture for collaborative solutions – National Consumers League

lee_lynch.jpgThis guest post was originally published at Reservoir Communications Group’s blog.

What do you get when you put representatives from more than 30 of the nation’s leading patient-focused health organizations, companies and government agencies in a room, amidst a sea of sometimes-competing priorities that are specific to each of those organizations? Cacophony? Stalemate? Not at all, at least not during the National Consumers League’s (NCL) inaugural Health Advisory Council meeting.

I had the pleasure of being a part of this meeting last week and while I have worked with nearly all of these organizations — individually and through coalitions – at one time or another, it is somewhat of a rare thing to engage with all of them during a coming together that may lead to solutions to seemingly insurmountable issues.

NCL has a history of NOT shying away from tough issues. Whether the issue is protecting the rights of child workers, improving treatment adherence, tackling consumer fraud, or improving consumer literacy, I’ve always thought their motto should read, Bring It On.

Through NCL’s new Health Advisory Council, they are looking to leading consumer, patient, health care professional, industry and government voices to help them determine what major health-focused issues need to be better addressed and could be addressed collaboratively.

The Health Advisory Council is very much at the beginning, but at the start, members and participants advised that the following were major issue areas that aligned with their own organizations’ interests:

  1. Medications — both Rx and OTC — were top of mind:  Adherence, management and general safe use of medications, as well as safe use of antibiotics
  2. Coverage policies and impact on access to care and medications was also an area for collaborative opportunity
  3. Defining and optimizing the respective roles of health care providers especially those of nurses and pharmacists —was a shared area of interest
  4. Improving both patient and HCP communication skills was also of common interest

As a communicator, I found it interesting how virtually every one of these top issue areas has communications at the center. Whichever topics NCL and its Health Advisory Council members choose to collaboratively pursue  — whether it be safe use of medications, enhancing access to care and treatment for diverse populations or people suffering from chronic conditions, fully recognizing the potential role nurses and pharmacists could play to improve value across the system, or tackling the need to improve communications between patients and HCPs in order to raise the overall level of coordinated care — communications, if successfully applied, will be a major part of the solution.

Some of the problems discussed seem larger than life. But many of the organizations in the room have a history of trying to tackle that which seems impossible:

A number of state-based organizations — such as the North Carolina Alliance for Healthy Communities and Ohio Pharmacists Association and researchers from Duke University and the University of Minnesota — are also involved and can help ensure that any possible approach is also localized in nature.

It’s too early to tell in which direction the NCL Health Advisory Council will head, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. More to come as the Council shares perspectives and concerns with one another and advises the NCL on what areas are worth pursuing — and solving — on behalf of America’s consumers.

Lee Lynch is founding principal at Lynch Advocacy Solutions, LLC and strategic counselor at Reservoir Communications Group. Her experience extends across advocacy, public relations, public affairs, issues management, marketing, and journalism. For more than a decade, Lee led the Edelman Alliances group – a dedicated team she founded that engaged hundreds of influencers and third-party organizations to find unique ways to collaboratively link organizations, corporations and governments to achieve mutual goals. 

Watered-down lemon juice making advocates sour – National Consumers League

In a formal complaint to the Food and Drug Administration this month, NCL is urging the federal agency to stop the sale of four brands of “100%” lemon juice that were recently tested and found to be heavily diluted with water. NCL tested four products, each of which turned out to contain only a small amount of real lemon juice! 

  • “NaturaLemon 100% Lemon Juice from concentrate – Natural Strength” contains only about 35 percent lemon juice.
  • “Lira 100% Lemon Juice from concentrate” contains only about 25 percent lemon juice.
  • “Lemon Time Lemon Juice from concentrate” contains about only 15 percent lemon juice. The product states on its front label, “Contains 100% Lemon Juice with added ingredients.”
  • “Pampa Lemon Juice from concentrate” contains only about 10 percent lemon juice. The product states “Made with 100% Juice.”  The label also includes the statement “Natural Strength.”

Consumer advocates believe that these producers water down their products to lower production costs and increases profits. In the case of lemon juice, recent weather conditions have led to variability in the supply of fresh lemons —and lemons being harder to get has given unscrupulous producers incentive to dilute their products with water and add citric acid and sugars to compensate for flavor.

The label of NaturaLemon illustrates just how bad the problem is. The label indicates that the bottle contains the juice of 30 lemons! However, doing the math, the bottle is likely made with only the juice from 10 lemons. The incentive to cheat is obvious.

NCL has long been an advocate of truthful and honest labeling. Consumers who buy these brands think that they are getting 100 percent lemon juice, but in reality they are not getting what they have paid for. We hope that FDA or state officials will take action to ensure that these brands either clean up their act or are no longer sold in stores. Click here to read NCL’s complaint to FDA and view the laboratory tests we sponsored.