A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Merry Cliftmas?

Dear Research Advocate,

Are we heading over the fiscal cliff? You have probably seen the several public opinion polls saying most Americans now think it’s inevitable. (“Merry Cliftmas,” says Jon Stewart.) Our latest polling tracks with that of others — and adds a timely insight. Just when one might least expect Americans to voluntarily increase what they owe to Uncle Sam, more than 50% say they would be willing to pay $1 more per week if they were sure the dollars would go to medical research. See this finding and more in a new poll we commissioned to take the pulse of Americans at this high-stakes time in our history.

We have been asking about willingness to pay more in taxes for years now, but it is particularly relevant now while elected officials are talking about tax reform and so many people are rethinking the role of government. We hope that advocates will use our poll data, emphasizing that Americans believe research is a part of the solution to containing health care costs and a significant driver to our economy.

You’ve heard about the impact of the fiscal cliff (and possible solutions to it) on NIH and other agencies that support research, but what about the impact on private sector innovation? Our VP for policy and programs, Ellie Dehoney, points out that cuts to Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates could create a disincentive for venture capitalists to invest in new medicines. Read the full article in Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News. New investment in biotech is already down significantly from last year, a trend that does not bode well for patients waiting for innovative treatments.

According to a new brief from the Center for American Progress: “Our national investments in research and development as a percentage of discretionary public spending have fallen from a 17% high at the height of the space race in 1962 to about 9% today, reflecting a shift in priorities of our government.” That’s disturbing, the authors assert, since research and innovation are powerful economic drivers. Public sector funding is slipping in a key area just when we need it most. For more on how innovation powers the economy, see a new report from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation: The 2012 State New Economy Index. Wherever your state ranks, its future economic success depends on robust investment now in the knowledge economy.

United Health Foundation and its partners have released the 23rd annual America’s Health Rankings — a wonderful resource that tracks key state health indicators across the nation, providing fuel for targeted public health strategies. Investing in research that will open more doors to prevention of obesity is just one of the answers to the call to action issued by the report and its accompanying release.

To help our federal leaders understand how very much is at stake right now, we must all get involved in illustrating the impact slashing research funding will have on individuals, families, careers and business. The AAAS has launched an initiative enabling you to submit a comment and/or a video about current threats to R&D funding, information that will then be used for advocacy. Please take a moment to add your voice!

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

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