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  • HHRA Earns Highest Rating from Guidestar/Candid

    By Russell K. King, executive director I’m pleased to announce that the HHRA has earned the Candid Platinum Seal of Transparency for 2023 –an achievement earned by fewer than one percent of US-based nonprofits. The Candid Platinum Seal is the highest level of recognition offered by Candid (formerly known as GuideStar) and is awarded to organizations that meet the highest standards of transparency and accountability. It’s an achievement that’s doubly important for the HHRA. The Candid Platinum Seal demonstrates the HHRA’s commitment to transparency and accountability. Our board, staff, volunteers, and partners believe that by sharing our data, metrics, and strategic priorities with the public, we can build trust and confidence in our organization and our work. To earn the Candid Platinum Seal, non-profit organizations must meet a rigorous set of criteria, including providing complete and accurate information about their mission, programs, finances, and governance on the Candid website, and sharing strategic priorities and information about outcomes. So why is this doubly important for the HHRA?  It’s important for all nonprofit organizations seeking grants and donations because the Candid Platinum Seal is a globally recognized acknowledgement that can inspire a higher level of confidence in the organization among potential grantors and donors–thereby making them far more likely to give. For the HHRA, however, it’s also important because our mission is one that relies on our credibility.  For our work to make a difference in people’s lives, people have to trust our processes, our findings, and our recommendations. The Candid Platinum Seal will help tell the world that, indeed, the HHRA is to be trusted. The leadership of the HHRA has always put integrity of the science first, which sets the HHRA apart in en era awash in willful misinformation and pseudoscience. I’ve long been a fierce advocate for the integrity in science, science reporting, and health information, so I’m proud to carry the torch that’s been passed to me. The HHRA supports researchers willing to seek answers to controversial questions. Our alliance of doctors, researchers, policy experts, and communicators works to answer questions that the government and private sector are too often unable or unwilling to address.  Through it all, we adhere strictly to scientific and ethical best practices to keep our research above reproach. The Candid Platinum Seal is an echo of the values that form the heart of the HHRA.  Let’s wear it with pride as we move forward.

  • Russell King | Executive Director Greetings from the New Executive Director

    By Russell K. King, HHRA Executive Director But yield who will to their separation,My object in living is to uniteMy avocation and my vocationAs my two eyes make one in sight. Robert Frost’s sentiment rang in my ears as I considered adopting the HHRA’s mission as my own. Why, after more than 25 years as a nonprofit CEO, would I take on a challenge of this complexity? Typically, when evaluating a potential professional challenge, you compare the attributes and experiences needed with those you possess. If they align sufficiently, it’s a good omen. I’ve spent more than a decade leading nonprofit organization through transitions, including a foundation that funded scientific research and two associations of medical professionals. I’ve created two development programs and led four others. And I’ve shared my expertise in nonprofit governance and policy, communications, and servant leadership. This constellation of what HHRA needs and what I can offer suggested that this was the direction I should follow. But there was something more. That something echoed Frost’s lines above: The chance to unite that which I enjoy, that which is most meaningful to me, with my work, thus uniting “my avocation and my vocation.” The two principles that have driven both my personal and professional lives have been: 1) we best find our way via the rigors and integrity of the scientific method, and 2) we create the richest meanings for our lives when we strive to help others. The HHRA, using science to improve and protect human health, rings both those bells with vigor. So here I am, eager to help the HHRA build on its illustrious beginnings and move to its next stage of development and growth. I will, of course, need your help. I won’t be shy about asking for it; please don’t be shy about offering it. This mission will require our collaboration, cooperation, and coordination. It will present moments in which we must support, encourage, and inspire each other. Worthy missions always do. For me, it’s the worthiness that matters most. Again, as Frost noted, we do this because it’s the right thing to do: Only where love and need are one,And the work is play for mortal stakes,Is the deed ever really doneFor Heaven and the future’s sakes.

  • A man spraying pesticides California’s Bold Plan to Transform Pest Management Systems is Long on Ambition and Light on Details

    By: Chuck Benbrook, HHRA ED By: Mark Lipson, HHRA Director of Policy and Regulatory Engagement We welcomed the invitation from California’s Department of Pesticide Regulation for members of the public to offer comments and guidance as the State begins to take concrete actions needed to achieve the goals set forth in the new report Sustainable Pest Management: A Roadmap for California. Reviewing the 94-page Roadmap report reminded us how many constituencies, forces, and factors are pushing and pulling farmers, pest managers, and government agencies in multiple directions that are rarely aligned. This Roadmap document describes a very different pest management future that will hopefully become the “de facto” way pests are managed on and off the farm by 2050. If successful by 2050, prevention-based biointensive Integrated Pest Management (bioIPM) will be the norm and there will be minimal if any use of high-risk “Priority Pesticides”. Some thirty-two years ago, DPR hired Chuck Benbrook to carry out a comprehensive evaluation of DPR’s programs and policies to assist in the integration of DPR into the newly-formed Cal-EPA. The resulting report, Challenge and Change: A Progressive Approach to Pesticide Regulation in California, came out in March of 1993. It provides dozens of recommendations intended to do many of the same things that the 2023 Roadmap report hopes to bring within reach. The fact that most pest management systems in California have become more, not less reliant on pesticides over the last 30 years suggests that DPR’s and CDFA’s efforts to achieve Roadmap goals are going to entail heavy lifting, mostly uphill. For this reason in HHRA’s comments, Mark and Chuck describe the nature and substantial scope of changes in laws and policy that will be required to track progress toward Roadmap goals and hopefully, someday, achieve them.

So What is Healthy Food and Why is HHRA Focused on Food Nutritional Quality?

Feb 14th, 2023

A full pizza on a plate with a knife, fork, and fresh vegetables next to it.Adults alive today have lived through efforts to address four existential threats to our individual and collective health: smoking, AIDs, Covid, and food and diets that undermine health and promote chronic disease.

For the first three threats, our collective response has been sustained and successful and has improved America’s public health.

A combination of new science, prevention-focused public health interventions, the capacity of US industry to innovate quickly when essential to do so, and the commonsense can-do spirit of Americans has markedly reduced smoking and associated disease, turned AIDs from a death sentence to a mostly manageable disease, and saved millions of lives as the Covid pandemic unfolded.

But on the fourth grand challenge we have made no progress and unfortunately, key measures of how food is altering America’s public health are headed in the wrong direction.

Poor quality food and unhealthy dietary patterns are largely behind a sobering fact – at least two-thirds of deaths in the US, as well as many of the chronic diseases that undermine quality of life are caused largely or partially by unhealthy food and poor dietary choices.

There is both great tragedy and irony in the fact that US farmers and the food industry have the ability to produce the healthiest food supply in the world, but clearly are not, and most American consumers can afford healthy food, but don’t seek it out.

Growing and Manufacturing Healthy Food

Our food system could quickly and seamlessly enhance the healthfulness of the American diet. Every consumer, one day at a time, could choose healthier foods.

Yet about two-thirds of the American diet falls far short of promoting health. Far too many unhealthy food products are tasty, relatively inexpensive and are for sale everywhere. For the food industry, today’s highly processed foods are easy to manufacture, ship, and sell and they deliver the most consistent profits. Unhealthy food products are what many consumers prefer and hence what the market demands.

The only way to bring about change on the scale needed is for the government, farmers, and the food industry to unite in an all-hands-on-deck effort to turn healthy food into the most sought after — and the most profitable option. This effort needs to start now and must be sustained over at least a generation.

A critical first step is for the government to confront the 800-pound gorilla hiding in plain sight in the closet of the American food industry – What makes one food healthy and another one not so?

With the release in September 2022 of a Proposed Rule to define what makes “healthy” food healthy, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) initiated one of the hopefully most-consequential rule makings ever in terms of helping Americans turn around deeply embedded adverse trends in health outcomes.

FDA requested public comments on its Proposed Rule and HHRA’s Public Policy Advisory Committee has weighed in with detailed comments. See this “In the News” item for an overview of our recommendations to the FDA, and this news coverage of the HHRA comments. And stay tuned as this critical rule making process unfolds.

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