Dear Research Advocate,
With Rep. Paul Ryan joining the Romney ticket, health is back on the national agenda. Partisan politics aside, this conversation is overdue, since health is indeed an issue that will make or bankrupt us. Research has always figured prominently in the wellbeing of Americans and America – research brought an end to the polio epidemic, which could have bankrupted the nation in the 1950s, and research is the only answer to the scourge of Alzheimer’s that threatens health, quality of life and our national checkbook today. And that is just a starting point for the conversation I hope you are having with everyone who wants to talk about the election. Take the opportunity to bridge from health care to health research and remind Americans that research must be a higher priority. As Research!America Chair and former Congressman John Porter has said, “Priorities will be chosen, and money will be spent.” Let’s make sure health research is a top priority.
How much do we know about Rep. Paul Ryan’s position on our issues? One place to start is with Rep. Paul Ryan’s response to our Your Congress – Your Health questionnaire of 2007. In his responses, Rep. Ryan calls for increasing NIH funding and endorses the importance of STEM education, although not federal support for stem cell research. Obviously, the political and fiscal climate has shifted dramatically since 2007, and the “Ryan budget” passed earlier this year by the House could deprive discretionary programs of funding vital to research, (see my comment in Medpage Today).
The case for research today is in fact stronger than it was five years ago. The Wall Street Journal has published an op-ed by two Nobel laureates, providing a clear and compelling case for the government’s role in fostering basic research — and including research in economics — yielding huge dividends for our health and economy as a whole. Dr. Peter Kohler, Vice Chancellor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences has published a piece carrying an equally compelling message in the NWAonline and a terrific op-ed has appeared in the Press Democrat by Dr. Dennis Mangan, a former NIH program director now working as a science communication advisor in Santa Rosa, CA. It would be a privilege to work with you on your own op-ed or letter to the editor making the case for policies that promote continued medical progress.
In past letters, I’ve written about the sequester and its potential for gutting funding for health research. The Coalition for Health Funding, of which Research!America is a member, has released a grassroots toolkit to educate and equip advocates to fight the sequester. Please circulate these tools to your networks and make sure that we stand together against the sequester. Make it a point to engage with candidates while they are campaigning around the nation this month.