A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Mars today, a cure for cancer tomorrow?

Dear Research Advocate,

American achievement continues to astound. This week we watched NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory send one of the most advanced space exploration vehicles ever constructed to a planet hundreds of millions of miles away from Earth and elegantly deliver it to the planet’s surface. Mars today, why not a cure for our nation’s deadliest diseases tomorrow? As advocates, we cannot take no for answer when it comes to assuring we have the resources, policies and determination we need to defeat disease and disability. Why should we be reluctant to demand that this be a national priority? As Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Meanwhile, astounding avoidance of decision-making in D.C. The issues aren’t going away, however. In response to attention driven mostly by the defense community, reporters are picking up the sequestration story, leading the public and policy makers to listen too. On Tuesday, President Obama signed into law the Sequestration Transparency Act of 2012, requiring the president to outline how the sequester would be applied across the federal government. By mid-September, we will have a better sense of the specific impact of these across-the-board cuts on federal agencies and research for health. There is little reason to think that research will be exempt from sequestration. So it is dangerous to be either complacent (“sequestration won’t happen”) or discouraged (“we can’t make any difference on this”). I’ve heard both arguments in the past week from members of Research!America; how can it be that there is such a sense of futility and frustration in our community? Consider that Margaret Mead maxim again and reach out to your elected officials with this message: We need cures, not cuts.

Yes we need cures, and we need prevention, too. This is made clear in a letter to the editor published in The Washington Post by Karl Moeller, the executive director of the Campaign for Public Health Foundation. The letter is in response to the recent op-ed about the need for additional research to prevent gun-related injuries, research that CDC has been prohibited from doing. As advocates, we must remind Congress that micromanagement of research, at any level, is a denial of progress.

Denial of the importance of research, is unfortunately, happening all too often. This week, we distributed a press release highlighting an excuse we’ve heard from some candidates about their failure to complete our voter education survey: “I don’t have time” to respond. Patients – indeed all of us – should take exception to that excuse. We must insist that they share their views on research. Patients can’t and won’t settle for less than making research for health a priority. Patient voices can be heard in a compelling new video about why research for health matters. My thanks to our Your Candidates – Your Health partners at the American Heart Association for producing this video montage of heart and stroke survivors talking about the value of research. It is already up on our website. Please take a moment to watch the video and share with your networks. Then create your own, and send it our way!

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

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