By Alan G. Kraut, Executive Director of the Association for Psychological Science
In the minds of many people, there is a separation between biomedical research and behavioral research. But that separation is artificial. Behavior is at the core of many health problems. Six out of 10 of the leading causes of premature death, including heart disease, diabetes, and stroke, are linked in part to genetic influences but also to controllable behaviors like physical inactivity, poor diet and smoking.
Our 25,000 members are scientists and educators at the nation’s universities and colleges, conducting federally funded basic and applied, theoretical, and clinical research. They look at such things as the connections between emotion, stress, and biology and the impact of stress on health; they look at ways to manage debilitating chronic conditions such as diabetes and arthritis as well as depression and other mental disorders; they look at how genes and the environment influence behavioral traits such as aggression and anxiety; and they address the behavioral aspects of smoking and drug and alcohol abuse.
Just as there exists a layered understanding, from basic to applied, of how molecules affect brain cancer, there is a similar spectrum for behavioral research. Continue reading →
December 11, 2013
The budget deal moves the needle in the right direction but not far enough. We’re gratified medical research and other non-defense discretionary programs will get a modicum of relief from sequestration’s bitter pill but it’s not enough to meet the expectations of patients waiting for new treatments and cures. The budget deal also fails to address tax and entitlement reform, the main contributors to our deficit. Until policy makers tackle those issues head-on, we will continue to fund medical innovation at levels far below what’s necessary to maintain our competitive edge.
To protect medical and health research, policy makers must eliminate sequestration. This remains Research!America’s top-line message, because it is sequestration that poses the greatest threat to all discretionary funding, including medical and health research conducted by NIH, CDC, FDA, NSF, AHRQ, DOD … and the list goes on. Advocates for medical and health research have made a huge impact over the years on funding and policies supportive of medical and health research, including playing a key role in reducing sequestration in 2013. We are asking you to weigh in again to help address sequestration in FY14 and FY15.
On Wednesday, the co-chairs of the committee charged with establishing an overall budget number for FY14 struck a deal that would establish this top-line number for both FY14 and FY15. Under this agreement, the sequestration cuts would be reduced by $50-$60 billion over the two-year period (a reduction of approximately 30% each year). While this modest reduction is less than hoped for, it does signal progress in the fight against sequestration. The task now is to assure this or a better deal passes both the House and Senate by December 13.
Please contact your representatives in Congress and urge them to vote in favor of a significant reduction in sequestration for FY14 and FY15 as a down payment on eliminating sequestration.
Take action now.
A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Call in Friday morning to help change the national conversation
Dear Research Advocate:
Research!America, in partnership with the American Society of Hematology, released a new poll on Tuesday, revealing strong feelings about the consequences of recent fiscal debacles. A majority (57%) of Americans, across party lines, believe that the government shutdown in October caused significant harm to programs like medical research, defense and education, programs that Americans value. It is not difficult to connect the dots between fiscal dysfunction and the future of our nation: More Americans than ever believe that our nation’s global leadership in science, technology and research will soon be a thing of the past,with 73% saying we will lose global leadership by 2020 — just six years from now. A plurality says China will surpass us by then. This perception is not far off base. China and other countries, including most recently Mexico, are making major commitments to their research and innovation infrastructure. They are determined to drive their economy and contribute to health and prosperity by following what was for years the leadership example set by the U.S.
Last month, following President Enrique Peña Nieto’s leadership, the Mexican Congress increased the budget for the primary national science and technology agency by 20% for 2014 and increased the nation’s overall science budget by 12%. Battelle predicts that China’s dramatic increases in federal research spending have positioned the nation to overtake the U.S. in total R&D investment within a few short years. It’s high time we match the bold visions of Mexico, China and many other nations. Continue reading →
Majority of Americans Believe Another Government Shutdown Likely in Coming Months; Last One Harmful to Medical Research
New National Poll Reveals Many Respondents Predict China will Surpass U.S.
in Science and Innovation by 2020
ALEXANDRIA, Va.—December 3, 2013—Nearly two-thirds (65%) of Americans say it’s likely there will be another government shutdown in the months ahead as Congress continues to debate deficit and budget issues, according to a new national public opinion poll commissioned by Research!America and the American Society of Hematology. This sentiment is shared across party affiliations: Democrats (66%), Republicans (65%) and Independents (65%). There is also consensus across party lines that government dysfunction has consequences. A majority of Americans (57%) say the shutdown in October caused significant harm to many government-funded programs including medical research, defense and education. Democrats (68%) and about half of Republicans (49%) and Independents (51%) agree.
On the topic of sequestration, a plurality (44%) says Congress must tackle tax and entitlement reform to reduce the deficit instead of continuing the 10 years of across-the-board cuts; another 16% say sequestration is not the right way to reduce the deficit. Less than a quarter (23%) believe the across-the-board cuts are a way of ensuring that many government programs share the pain, and 17% say they’re not sure. In general, 62% of Americans say they’re concerned about the long-term effects of sequestration on advances in health care such as the development of new drugs and other treatments.
“Our poll demonstrates uneasiness among many Americans about the ramifications of deep spending cuts to programs that are critical to our health and well-being,” said Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research!America. “Americans want Congress to reach a budget deal that protects medical and health research, at least in part because of concern that our nation is at risk of losing our global leadership position in science and innovation.” Continue reading →
Excerpt of an op-ed by Nola Aigner, Public Information Officer at the Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health published in the Globe Gazette.
During the Thanksgiving season, there is a lot to be thankful for. Good health, friends, family — the list goes on and on.
As a staff member for the Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health, I can’t help but be thankful for what my colleagues do to keep our county residents healthy and safe.
Our Disease Prevention and Investigation team works to make sure everyone’s vaccination needs are met. This flu season, the team traveled to many public and school based flu clinics to provide more than 2700 flu vaccines to residents.
The Family and Community Health Service Section is comprised of public health nurses, home care aides and administrative staff who provide care to more than 200 clients monthly. Our public health nurses work with physicians to provide wound care, drawing blood for lab tests and teaching family members about medications. Our home care aides offer assistance with bathing, grocery shopping and laundry.
More than 180 Cerro Gordo County women who were under-insured or had no health insurance received mammograms and breast health screenings through grant dollars from the Chronic Disease Prevention and Self-Management Service Section.
Read the full op-ed here.
To address the recent meningitis outbreak at Princeton, public health programs from all levels got involved. Students sought medical attention at the university’s health center and their hometown local hospitals; the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) investigated the outbreak and requested CDC involvement; the FDA examined the case and allowed a new vaccine, unlicensed in the US but approved in Europe and Australia. With final CDC approval, the university will offer the vaccine on campus and cover the cost for all students.
Diverse institutions within our public health infrastructure came together to address the outbreak, and the public health professionals within them did what was needed—as they do in communities across the country. On November 25th, Research!America and other leading health organizations will come together to thank them and all other public health heroes like them. Join us! Connect with us on Facebook (and use #PHTD on Twitter), write to your policymakers, submit a letter to the editor to your local paper (see York Daily Record and Beaufort County Now examples), and more.
Dear Research Advocate:
Yesterday I learned that China is offering to pay full freight for students from developing countries who are interested in receiving their university degree in China. China is also, as you know, investing hand over fist in research and development, life science research in particular. Juxtapose China’s science, STEM education and science-diplomacy policies with U.S.policies: we don’t seem to have them! And contrast their funding strategy with ours: we’re disinvesting while they’re planning to outspend us within the next five years.
So why does it matter where science is pursued? Why does it matter if the U.S. focuses on other priorities for awhile or forever, given the way we’re going? You can fill in the answer as easily as I can. We need jobs; innovation produces them. We need to cut the deficit; tackling chronic disease is imperative to that goal, as is a healthy industrial base — and without innovation, neither is possible. And so on and so on.
The question is how to wake up policy makers to the havoc they are wreaking on our nation. As regards to the big picture, there is a glimmer of hope in that a group of Republican lawmakers have sent a letter to the Budget Conference Committee asserting the need for a return to an actual appropriations process so that government funding will once again reflect American priorities. Consequence-blind, across-the-board cuts (aka sequestration) are not the only threat to research, but they are the biggest. Appropriating, rather than bickering, is a good first step toward prioritizing R&D funding. A second letter, initiated by Research!America ‘s 2013 Whitehead awardees Senators Bob Casey and Richard Burr, and signed by 33 Members representing both sides of the aisle, urges the Conference Committee to assign NIH funding the priority it deserves.
Our goal is that 100 Senators would sign such a letter and that it would cover much more than NIH funding! Realizing such a goal for all members of Congress is what motivates us in our election year voter education work. We will soon launch our 2014 national voter education initiative with inside- and outside-the-Beltway strategies designed to ensure that both voters and candidates know that Americans’ way of life depends on research and development, which in turn depends upon a governing process that works. The people who report to Americans should do right by them, putting research and innovation to work to find the solutions to the nation’s ills; dismantling our innovation infrastructure and discouraging the talented women and men who make use of it is taking us in the wrong direction as a nation.
Thanksgiving is approaching, and one of the many reasons to give thanks is that I am blessed to partner with visionaries with the drive, dedication and talent to reverse the decline in U.S. science. Research champion Paul Rogers said, “Without research, there is no hope.” You are literally keeping hope alive, and for that I am so grateful.
Grateful and asking for your partnership once again. Please add your voice to the growing chorus promoting Public Health Thank You Day (Monday, November 25th) and heeding its message. The York (PA) City Bureau of Health director, Barbara Kovacs, was outspoken in her letter to the editor of the York Daily Record honoring the unwavering efforts of public health professionals to protect our nation every day. The Beaufort County (NC) Health director, James A. Madson, weighed in with his letter to the editor as well. The Vanderburgh County (IN) Health Department will be hosting a Health Fair to provide free screenings for all residents. Please follow their lead and host an event — large or small, it will matter — or write an LTE, press release or social media post. Our online toolkit will help you craft your Public Health Thank You Day messages. And speaking of critical public health work: If you weren’t able to join last week’s event surrounding Chagas disease research and development, check out PAHO’s full video coverage of it here. Chagas isn’t some remote threat to our nation; it’s one of many emerging challenges that we rely on our public health infrastructure, as well as our talented scientific community, to confront and defeat. We can’t take the public’s health for granted for another day.
We’re taking a few days off next week to spend with family. I’ll be in touch again the first Thursday of December. A Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours,
Public Health Thank You Day — November 25, 2013
ALEXANDRIA, Va.—November 21, 2013—On the Monday before Thanksgiving, Research!America and partners urge Americans to pay tribute to public health professionals who work around the clock to protect our health. Public Health Thank You Day honors unsung heroes who keep our drinking water safe and air clean, develop vaccines, track and investigate infections, and protect us from natural and man-made threats. These everyday heroes include our health inspectors, environmental health scientists, public health researchers, sanitation workers and many other dedicated workers.
“Professionals throughout the public health system work 24/7 to protect Americans from health threats,” said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH. “The recent federal shutdown was a stark reminder of how much we rely on these professionals day in and day out to detect outbreaks, respond to health emergencies and promote health every day. Their dedication reflects their scientific ethic as well as their continuing commitment to serving the public.” Continue reading →
Excerpt of an article published in The Boston Globe on the next surgeon general.
President Obama will nominate Dr. Vivek Murthy of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital as surgeon general of the United States, the White House announced Thursday night.
“We share a belief that access to quality health care is a basic human right,” Brigham president Dr. Betsy Nabel said in a statement about Murthy. “I am confident that he will be a passionate advocate and that he will have an extraordinary impact as our nation’s surgeon general.”
Read the full article here.
By Foti Panagakos, DMD, PhD, global director of scientific affairs at Colgate-Palmolive
Oral health has been demonstrated to be associated with, and an important influencer of, overall health. The role of prevention is critical to reducing, and eventually eliminating what the WHO has deemed an epidemic, caries or cavities in teeth. This is the most prevalent disease among children, with more than 60% of 5 year olds having at least one cavity. In addition, research over the last 25 years has shown that in patients who have a chronic disease, such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease, and concomitant serious gum or periodontal disease, the treatment of the oral disease will improve the control and management of the systemic chronic disease.
While these findings have stimulated action among the medical and dental communities to work collaboratively in identifying and treating oral disease in these very vulnerable patients, it is the fact that the oral disease is preventable in the first place which should take precedence in our management of this problem. Developing and implementing preventative technologies is the solution to addressing both of these issues. Continue reading →
A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Moving from the Envy of the World to the Puzzle of the World
Dear Research Advocate:
NIH Director Francis Collins was recently interviewed for a Wall Street Journal article that would reinvigorate even the weariest research advocate. Dr. Collins captured the legacy and unprecedented potential of research for health, as well as the counterintuitive neglect of it, in a truly compelling manner. Dr. Collins made similarly captivating comments yesterday at the Washington Ideas Forum: “We’re going from the envy of the world,” he said, “to the puzzle of the world. Other nations are mystified that we have stopped following our own playbook — the one they are using now to drive their economy and improve health and quality of life for their own populations.”
Of course they’re mystified. Policy makers are setting Americans up for needless suffering and America up for decline. It’s past time to follow the lead of, for example, the Australian government; despite battling austerity, it has announced an increase in funding for the Australian Research Council’s research grants. And Australia is not alone — China is now on track to overtake U.S. spending (actual spending and as a percentage of GDP) within five years. Continue reading →
Did you know that nearly 26 million children and adults in the U.S. have diabetes, and another 79 million Americans have pre-diabetes and are at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), a Research!America member?
During the month of November, the ADA, along with other organizations, will raise awareness and understanding about this increasingly prevalent disease and ways to prevent it. This year’s theme is “A Day in the Life of Diabetes,” because diabetes doesn’t stop; it’s 24/7, 365 days a year. Visit ADA’s website, Twitter, and Facebook page to learn more about ways you can participate.
Researchers are making progress in identifying the genetics and “triggers” that predispose some individuals to develop Type 1 diabetes, but more research is needed to combat the disease. Tell Congress that we need more #curesnotcuts to help improve diabetes prevention and treatment. Speak up now!
Dear Research Advocate:
It has been a week since the Budget Conference Committee’s first meeting. The next public meeting is scheduled for November 13. Staffs are at work, and various Members are talking. There are no concrete signs of progress. What I keep coming back to is the failure of our nation’s decision makers to recognize and act on the reality that the priorities of Americans are reflected in both discretionary and entitlement programs. The persistence of sequestration underscores Congress’ inability to make decisions and choose priorities. The sequestration era has run its course, dealing Congress record lows in terms of public support; it’s past time to end the era and move on.
Recently I shared my letter to the Budget Conference Committee; it argued for an end to sequestration, pointing out the importance of investing in medical research as a pragmatic strategy for decreasing the national debt and deficit. This week I followed up with a letter on the importance of health research, pointing out how it helps identify smart medical innovation and optimal health care financing and delivery. The letter showcases the essential role of health economics, health services, public health, behavioral and social science research in assuring quality medical innovation and smart health care delivery. We are concerned that if the research stakeholder community at large does not speak out for this critical research, it will be compromised or even defunded altogether. Please join us in raising your voice. Continue reading →
As recent disease outbreaks have demonstrated, the need for public health is around the clock. But sequestration, across-the-board spending cuts, presents major challenges for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other federal health agencies. Among them: depleted resources for immunizations, reduced support to state and local health departments, and deep cuts to programs to prevent cancer, heart attacks, strokes, and diabetes. In spite of the challenges, public health professionals continue to dedicate their time and energy to addressing major health threats.
CDC employees are among the many public health professionals who show tireless commitment to preventing disease and promoting good health. Health educators instruct children on the long-term effects of lifestyle choices; researchers pursue new treatments for evolving illnesses; regulators ensure prescription drug safety and effectiveness; physicians implement vaccination programs. They are public health heroes, working every day to improve others’ quality of life. Continue reading →