A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: The peacock and the ostrich (wait for it…)

Dear Research Advocate,

Sequestration, the looming fiscal cliff, a dangerous House appropriations bill – all were addressed in our members-only call yesterday with Chairman John Porter. As Porter pointed out, we have to keep the big picture in mind, pushing for tax and entitlement reform as part of the larger “fix,” AND, in the immediate, we have to cry foul about the House bill and sequestration. Right now, while Congress is still in session, we must flood their offices, and the Administration, with calls and e-mails. Take 30 seconds to send a message to your representatives to remind them that medical research should be among our nation’s highest priorities. And – as was emphasized by many on the call – keep in mind that even as we step up advocacy we must resist the temptation to go after our own piece of the pie or be lured into supporting unprecedented congressional micromanagement of NIH. NIH micromanagement threatened now, CDC micromanaged in the past and now facing a steep cut, AHRQ eliminated – we have to halt all this in its tracks!

We must all stand shoulder to shoulder with one another.  Take a stand against every aspect of micromanagement whenever it rears its ugly head – speak up, for example, against baring the NIH from funding research in the critical field of health economics. Click here to sign on to the letter at COSSA@cossa.org.

Have you noticed the vast difference between how the defense community is working to stop sequestration, in contrast to the rest of us? There are millions of us who care about health and research for health every bit as much as we care about defense. Yet it’s the defense stakeholders who are speaking with one voice, and are loud and proud in strutting their stuff to remind us of what is at stake – they are the peacocks to our ostrich-like image, not ready for prime time! The good news is that we, part of the non-defense discretionary (NDD) community, have lifted our heads out of the sand and are starting to be heard. Yesterday on the Hill, hundreds of advocates attended a rally to raise awareness regarding the importance of federal agencies and programs funded from the non-defense discretionary budget. Senator Harkin (D-IA), the chair of the Senate subcommittee that sets funding for NIH, CDC, and AHRQ, spoke at the rally and released this report detailing the impact of sequester on these programs. The media is taking increased notice; now we must all leverage this to make NDD funding an issue that is impossible to ignore.

Speaking of media, check out a recent piece in the Providence Journal  and this story in Bloomberg Businessweek, about how AHRQ-funded research saves both lives and money.  As I mentioned, the House bill would eliminate this critical agency.  AcademyHealth has launched a campaign to save AHRQ and stop other damage — we should add our voice to #No4LaborH on Twitter – social media is critical in these times; get involved!

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

P.S. We lost an American hero this week. Dr. Sally Ride, the first American woman to fly in space, died from pancreatic cancer. She was only 61. Her many accomplishments and dedication to promoting science education is inspirational. To ensure a strong, sustained bioscience ecosystem, we must carry forth her legacy by fighting for robust STEM education programs as part of the research pipeline. Her life and dedication to breaking barriers reminds me how far our nation has come in terms of scientific and social progress, while her untimely death is a testament to the importance of individual scientists taking time to be educators and advocates.

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