A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Inaugural topics?

Dear Research Advocate,

President Obama delivered a comprehensive plan for stemming gun violence yesterday, identifying, among other components, a renewed role for federally funded research. (Prohibitions enacted by Congress in the mid-1990s and expanded in 2011 have largely prevented federal agencies from funding firearms-related research.) An executive memorandum signed by the president on Wednesday directs CDC to conduct research on the causes of gun violence and ways to prevent it. Restrictions on research that informs federal policy are counterproductive to sound governance. With the benefit of research findings, policy makers can identify the most effective strategies for preventing firearm violence. Research!America applauds the president and joins all those who oppose restrictions on research for health. A national focus on ending gun violence will surely be a topic addressed by the president in his second inaugural address on Monday.

On the budget front, which the president will almost certainly address in his remarks, the drawn-out, kick-the-can-down-the-road approach to avoiding fiscal chaos is already taking a deep toll on our nation’s core government functions, including medical research. This message was delivered loud and clear this week in Forbes, in a piece called “Congress is Killing Medical Research” by Dr. Steven Salzberg of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Share this terrific editorial with your networks, and make sure your elected officials have read it too! You can use our web tool to find contact information for your federal representatives. The damage of the current fiscal situation was also called out in an article by Richard Craver in the Winston-Salem Journal, describing how Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center is being hit with a “triple whammy.”

In an interview with Politico, Dr. Francis Collins, director of the NIH, said sequestration would deal a “profound and devastating blow” to medical research. In 2011, the NIH budget was reduced by 1.5% and has continued to lose ground to inflation, which has eroded the agency’s ability to support lifesaving research by 20% since 2003. Dr. Collins also highlighted shrinking grant success rates; now just 1 in 6 applications are funded. This has a terribly demoralizing effect on young researchers and patients alike. Email your representatives now, and urge them to end sequestration once and for all.

Will the president use the platform of the inaugural address to underscore the importance of health and medical research? From preventing gun violence to ending the costly scourge of Alzheimer’s and so many other ailments, there are profoundly important reasons to assign a top priority to solutions research can and will identify, given adequate support. Advocates for research look to the president to take a leadership role; so does the American public, 72% of whom want biomedical and health research to be a priority for the president and for the new Congress in its first 100 days.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

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