My Experience of Publishing Positive Health PH Online for >22 Years
David Lorimer’s invitation to describe the impact of publishing Positive Health PH Online for >22 years has provoked within me an intense period of reflection and introspection. Twenty-two+ years is, after all, a fairly long time in one person’s life. Technologically speaking, thinking back to pre-1994, this was just about the very onset of emails; the internet was rudimentary, Windows hadn’t yet launched Windows 95 until 1995, replacing Windows 3.1!
My Previous Career as a Research Scientist and Author
Prior to the mid-1980s, I had been a research scientist, working as a molecular biologist in Canada then in the USA attempting to describe, locate and isolate plant genes involved in nitrogen fixation. Soon after arriving in the UK I was researching organic germanium, published a paper, then a book and attempting to organise a clinical trial to test its potential clinical efficacy in HIV/AIDS. In 1989 after several lurid tabloid scandals, an article by Duncan Campbell entitled Pretty Poison, organic germanium was [unjustifiably] banned from sale as a nutritional supplement. This sounded the death knell for research to discover whether this supplement might have been therapeutically useful against HIV/AIDS. According to Martin Walker, author of Dirty Medicine, I may have inadvertently been partly responsible in that I had submitted grant proposals to fund a clinical trial to the then Wellcome Foundation.
In the early 1990s the Cochrane Collaboration [established meta-analysis protocols for evidenced-based medicine] was in its early days. This was also the time of dramatic events and negative publicity about the flawed Chilvers BCHC research study, purporting to show that women with cancer who attended Bristol Cancer Help Centre were more likely to die than women who received conventional care. The repercussions of the media storm almost closed down Bristol.
Nutrition and Cancer Database, Book, Research
In 1992, Pat Pilkington convened a meeting of professionals to discuss Nutrition and Lifestyle Guidelines for people with cancer; I was appointed the lead author of the Consensus Statement document Nutrition and Life-Style Guidelines for People with Cancer which was published in the Journal of Nutritional Medicine [later re-published in Positive Health PH Online] I am most impressed at how prescient it was even 22 years ago regarding providing more options for cancer patients, and also disappointed in how little cancer treatment has progressed in directions providing patients with more options that merely chemotherapy and radiation therapy as adjunctive treatments. Pat Pilkington, who wished to put the Bristol Cancer Help Centre on a more scientifically-sound footing, commissioned me to set up a database of research publications about Nutrition and Cancer, which I did in 1993. Some of these findings were serialised in issues of the JACM Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine - now ceased publication, Leon Chaitow the then Editor, which indirectly led to the publication of Nutrition and Cancer - Health State-of-the-Art.
Even in 1993, I was astonished at the huge body of published evidence amassed, particularly regarding nutritional treatment approaches; however, little if any of this important, potentially life-saving information was being communicated either to researchers of the wider public interested in less dangerous / toxic and potentially more life enhancing treatments for cancer. My partner Mike Howell, who had decades of experience in typesetting and magazine publication, pointed this out, and we launched Positive Health in 1994 - the objective was to attempt to bridge the gap between alternative and conventional medicine. I always thought that dividing modes of health treatment into different spheres was a complete non-sequitur; I even presented a talk at Olympia in 1997 with graphic schematics of the no-entry between so-called Orthodox and Complementary Medicine, as well as a schematic for an Integrated HealthCare System.
Positive Health Exhibition Team 1998: Donna Reeve, Sue Johnson, David & Jenny Holmes
Positive Health - Business and Development
First Decade of Expansion
Initially we worked from home - there was an advertising sales person in the kitchen, later in the conservatory. In 1995 we then moved into offices in Queen Square, Bristol and recruited Advertising, Administration, Editorial and Production Staff. At first, we did invoices on paper, only used basic databases, DTP Software, then Quark Xpress. The first four issues of Positive Health were actually photocopied, then we acquired DTP software, then printed directed from film using a local printer. We then moved to a web (not internet) -based printer, then to another web printer. After Windows 95 came Windows 98. We were printing to film - pre-press; later we produced pdf files from which the magazines were printed. As we expanded, we acquired a subscription house for subscribers in the UK and internationally, and distribution to newsagents and health food stores in the UK and the USA. We also had a successful team who displayed Positive Health at exhibitions around the UK. Artwork was commissioned from local artists, including the design of new website home pages.
PH Online Jan 2001 - Shopfront Design Website - Address and contact Details have changed
By 2004, the Internet and emails had evolved considerably. We decided to outsource our Subscriptions and Advertising and moved from Bristol to Portsmouth. After a few years of successful advertising with external agencies, and falling advertising sales and decline in exhibition revenue, we took back the advertising sales in-house and set up advertising sales offices and call centres and recruited additional staff.
The Financial Crisis - 2008
The cost of printing mailing out Positive Health magazine to subscribers amounted to >£10k per month, which was becoming unsustainable. The collapse of the Banks in autumn 2008 prompted an almost immediate decline in advertising sales, magazine sales plummeted; it was decided to cease printing the magazine after Issue 150 and continue Positive Health PH Online with the Internet site established since 1995. As Positive Health PH Online had always been online since the outset of Positive Health, the entire archive of articles was online.
PH Online Website since Aug 2016
Full Transition to Positive Health PH Online
At this juncture, considerable effort was expended to develop the website and its resources to promote advertisers. In early 2009, we moved to Ramsgate to enable my partner Mike to be closer to his family – daughters, their husbands and grandchildren, latterly great grandchildren. New website designs have been continually unveiled; the latest design in April 2015 with more vibrant colours and new look, featuring a StoryBoard access to PH articles; also rotating displays of Events, Product, Courses, Therapist/Clinic Listings, Topic Banners and PY ads. There is a wide choice of animated adverts and listings, for which there is unlimited text plus a graphic.
Complementary / Alternative Research - 1994 Until Now
Since 1994, when there were frequent statements that there was no research about complementary / alternative medicine, there is now a myriad of research papers and articles across the multiple spectrum of disciplines. The Cochrane Network which has cemented in the notion of Evidence-based Medicine appears to discard research which isn’t of the randomised controlled clinical trial variety, which leaves out clinical and research studies or ranks unfavourably trials which don’t fit the RCT criteria. The previous invisibility-non-communication of existing research to practitioners and public has transformed over the decades into an invisibility and non-communication of natural health treatment approaches from the side of the official media and orthodox medical and pharmaceutical professions. The fragmentation of complementary practitioner associations, division and conflict among and between organisations persists. One of the most serious issues goes to the heart of what is natural treatment, indeed medical treatment per se: paradigm dichotomies exist and are maintained in controversial subjects: Infection / Antibiotics Vaccination, Cancer, Heart Disease, Psychiatric Drugs, ME/CFS.
Assaults on Holistic / Alternative Physicians, Practitioners
Prosecutions against holistic practitioners occur on a regular basis for pursuing other than mainstream approaches in cancer treatments, homeopathy, energy medicine approaches; these emanate on an industrial scale from the ASA, GMC, GDC, Royal College of Veterinary Physicians (RCVS). As played out regularly in the media are paradigm / evidence shifts regarding Nutrition - Cholesterol, Fats - trans fats, butter, margarine, saturated vs unsaturated fats, Sugar, Salt,
Medical Crises in Diabetes, Obesity and Cancer. The failure in 2015 to progress with the Saatchi Innovation Bill to pursue other than standard cancer treatment approaches has placed a severe limit on the progress of less toxic and possibly more effective long-term cancer treatments. A familiar rant of mine has been a frustrating Lack of Progress to Integrated Medicine - http://blog.positivehealth.com/blog/
Mike Howell and Sandra Goodman 2016
How Being a Publisher has Affected Me
Much has changed over the past 22 years, including closure of long-established retailers such as C&A, Woolworths, BHS in the UK and in Canada Eatons and Pascals. Long-trusted magazines have ceased publishing including Here’s Health, JACM, and more general famous magazines such as Time and Life. Sadly, there have been deaths of innumerable prominent personalities; a few of these in the complementary world include Michael Endacott - ICM, Michael Gearin-Tosh, Pat Pilkington, Celia Wright and Christine Johnston. The sale of The Nutri Centre to Tesco in 2001, and its shocking closure in 2016. The closure of the CAMEXPO exhibition after 14 years in Oct 2016 was a profound shock to the entire Complementary Medicine community. As any publisher may attest, publishing is a 24/7 treadmill; as soon as one issue is published the next commences. One has to schedule and organise in almost 3 dimensions. I have, as have many editors and publishers, been afflicted with the curse of spotting spelling and grammatical errors everywhere.
Where Positive Health PH Online Stands Today
For me, Positive Health PH Online has never been simply a magazine; it has always been about working to bridge the gulf between conventional and natural medicine. With the cessation of its printing as a paper magazine, PH Online, with the complete archive of all Positive Health’s content since its inception, has been transformed into a vital, precious, independently owned body of significant publication re natural treatment approaches - >3,000 articles across 150 subjects, >3,000 Research Abstracts, Book Reviews, Letters, > 1,500 Authors. The site currently receives 6,351 - 7,792 visits per day; 41,555 - 59,924 page views daily. In September 2016 there were 190,540 visits, 1,246,650 Page Views, 3,800,159 Files and 3,976,389 Hits. PH Online Issue 234 was published 27 October; we are currently in production with Issue 235 to be published 15 Dec 2016.
Author, Dumpton Gap nr Broadstairs
Positive Health - Looking to the Future
Looking to the future, PH Online must extend and enhance the PH Online educational legacy, as well as utilise the facilities and resources of the Internet to attract and generate increased and diverse revenue from advertising, enlistment of paid sponsorships, publication of e-books, research and other fundraising campaigns, to increase health awareness via conferences, YouTube, extend communications to those in positions of authority across the medical and pharmaceutical professions and continue to build bridges between complementary and conventional healthcare hierarchies and organisations. The commitment to bridge the gap between conventional and alternative medicine into a unified, integrated medicine has never wavered. It is hoped that the future will continue, indeed surpass the initial excellent work of the past 22+ years.
This article was originally published in revised format in the Scientific and Medical Network Journal Newsletter No. 121 2016/2.
Richard Eaton said..
I speak for many CAM practitioners and their patients when I thank you and Mike Howell for your vision and tenacity, often against depressing and frustrating opposition. The PH Online ‘view’ figures referred to in the paragraph “Where PHOnline stands today" are just one indication of your success.
Your article is nothing less than a compilation of great achievement describing how you adapted PH to confront difficult economic times and initiated and progressed the imaginative use of swiftly changing technology. As you say, your commitment to PH has always been about "working to bridge the gulf between conventional and natural medicine” and in this and much else you have succeeded. The vast body of research you have placed and continue to publish online (with free and open access) provides ‘ammunition’ that others can use to pursue this aim. As the practice, regulation and training of natural medicine evolves, I feel sure that this research will continue to inform and underpin the professionalism and effectiveness of practitioners and, in due course, help to bring about the properly funded and recognised delivery of integrated medicine. It is clear that this is what a significant proportion of patients want. It is also the case that integrated medicine enables a cost-effective means of providing many health-care treatments, which is something that those administering the public health sector must surely have a duty to acknowledge and progress. What you are doing at PH contributes enormously and uniquely to this process. Thank you and congratulations on what you have achieved in your (first) 22 years.