Monthly Archives: November, 2013

Thankful for Public Health

Excerpt of an op-ed by Nola Aigner, Public Information Officer at the Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health published in the Globe Gazette.

During the Thanksgiving season, there is a lot to be thankful for. Good health, friends, family — the list goes on and on.

As a staff member for the Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health, I can’t help but be thankful for what my colleagues do to keep our county residents healthy and safe.

Our Disease Prevention and Investigation team works to make sure everyone’s vaccination needs are met. This flu season, the team traveled to many public and school based flu clinics to provide more than 2700 flu vaccines to residents.

The Family and Community Health Service Section is comprised of public health nurses, home care aides and administrative staff who provide care to more than 200 clients monthly. Our public health nurses work with physicians to provide wound care, drawing blood for lab tests and teaching family members about medications. Our home care aides offer assistance with bathing, grocery shopping and laundry.

More than 180 Cerro Gordo County women who were under-insured or had no health insurance received mammograms and breast health screenings through grant dollars from the Chronic Disease Prevention and Self-Management Service Section.

Read the full op-ed here.

Public Health Thank You Day: Recognizing All Levels of Public Health Work

To address the recent meningitis outbreak at Princeton, public health programs from all levels got involved. Students sought medical attention at the university’s health center and their hometown local hospitals; the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) investigated the outbreak and requested CDC involvement; the FDA examined the case and allowed a new vaccine, unlicensed in the US but approved in Europe and Australia. With final CDC approval, the university will offer the vaccine on campus and cover the cost for all students.

580491_520295697990810_1202890633_nDiverse institutions within our public health infrastructure came together to address the outbreak, and the public health professionals within them did what was needed—as they do in communities across the country. On November 25th, Research!America and other leading health organizations will come together to thank them and all other public health heroes like them. Join us! Connect with us on Facebook (and use #PHTD on Twitter), write to your policymakers, submit a letter to the editor to your local paper (see York Daily Record  and Beaufort County Now examples), and more.

 

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: No Longer the Envy of the World (Part 2)

Dear Research Advocate:

Yesterday I learned that China is offering to pay full freight for students from developing countries who are interested in receiving their university degree in China. China is also, as you know, investing hand over fist in research and development, life science research in particular. Juxtapose China’s science, STEM education and science-diplomacy policies with U.S.policies: we don’t seem to have them!  And contrast their funding strategy with ours: we’re disinvesting while they’re planning to outspend us within the next five years.

So why does it matter where science is pursued? Why does it matter if the U.S. focuses on other priorities for awhile or forever, given the way we’re going? You can fill in the answer as easily as I can. We need jobs; innovation produces them. We need to cut the deficit; tackling chronic disease is imperative to that goal, as is a healthy industrial base — and without innovation, neither is possible. And so on and so on.

The question is how to wake up policy makers to the havoc they are wreaking on our nation. As regards to the big picture, there is a glimmer of hope in that a group of Republican lawmakers have sent a letter to the Budget Conference Committee asserting the need for a return to an actual appropriations process so that government funding will once again reflect American priorities. Consequence-blind, across-the-board cuts (aka sequestration) are not the only threat to research, but they are the biggest. Appropriating, rather than bickering, is a good first step toward prioritizing R&D funding. A second letter, initiated by Research!America ‘s 2013 Whitehead awardees Senators Bob Casey and Richard Burr, and signed by 33 Members representing both sides of the aisle, urges the Conference Committee to assign NIH funding the priority it deserves.

Our goal is that 100 Senators would sign such a letter and that it would cover much more than NIH funding! Realizing such a goal for all members of Congress is what motivates us in our election year voter education work. We will soon launch our 2014 national voter education initiative with inside- and outside-the-Beltway strategies designed to ensure that both voters and candidates know that Americans’ way of life depends on research and development, which in turn depends upon a governing process that works. The people who report to Americans should do right by them, putting research and innovation to work to find the solutions to the nation’s ills; dismantling our innovation infrastructure and discouraging the talented women and men who make use of it is taking us in the wrong direction as a nation.

Thanksgiving is approaching, and one of the many reasons to give thanks is that I am blessed to partner with visionaries with the drive, dedication and talent to reverse the decline in U.S. science. Research champion Paul Rogers said, “Without research, there is no hope.” You are literally keeping hope alive, and for that I am so grateful.

Grateful and asking for your partnership once again. Please add your voice to the growing chorus promoting Public Health Thank You Day (Monday, November 25th) and heeding its message. The York (PA) City Bureau of Health director, Barbara Kovacs, was outspoken in her letter to the editor of the York Daily Record honoring the unwavering efforts of public health professionals to protect our nation every day. The Beaufort County (NC) Health director, James A. Madson, weighed in with his letter to the editor as well. The Vanderburgh County (IN) Health Department will be hosting a Health Fair to provide free screenings for all residents. Please follow their lead and host an event — large or small, it will matter — or write an LTE, press release or social media post. Our online toolkit will help you craft your Public Health Thank You Day messages. And speaking of critical public health work: If you weren’t able to join last week’s event surrounding Chagas disease research and development, check out PAHO’s full video coverage of it here. Chagas isn’t some remote threat to our nation; it’s one of many emerging challenges that we rely on our public health infrastructure, as well as our talented scientific community, to confront and defeat.  We can’t take the public’s health for granted for another day.

We’re taking a few days off next week to spend with family. I’ll be in touch again the first Thursday of December. A Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours,

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

Research!America and Partners Applaud Public Health Heroes for Keeping Us Safe 24/7

Public Health Thank You Day — November 25, 2013

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—November 21, 2013—On the Monday before Thanksgiving, Research!America and partners urge Americans to pay tribute to public health professionals who work around the clock to protect our health. Public Health Thank You Day honors unsung heroes who keep our drinking water safe and air clean, develop vaccines, track and investigate infections, and protect us from natural and man-made threats. These everyday heroes include our health inspectors, environmental health scientists, public health researchers, sanitation workers and many other dedicated workers.

“Professionals throughout the public health system work 24/7 to protect Americans from health threats,” said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH. “The recent federal shutdown was a stark reminder of how much we rely on these professionals day in and day out to detect outbreaks, respond to health emergencies and promote health every day. Their dedication reflects their scientific ethic as well as their continuing commitment to serving the public.” Continue reading →

Obama nominating Dr. Vivek Murthy of Harvard and Brigham and Women’s as surgeon general

Excerpt of an article published in The Boston Globe on the next surgeon general.

President Obama will nominate Dr. Vivek Murthy of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital as surgeon general of the United States, the White House announced Thursday night.

“We share a belief that access to quality health care is a basic human right,” Brigham president Dr. Betsy Nabel said in a statement about Murthy. “I am confident that he will be a passionate advocate and that he will have an extraordinary impact as our nation’s surgeon general.”

Read the full article here.

The urgent need to address oral health in the US

By Foti Panagakos, DMD, PhD, global director of scientific affairs at Colgate-Palmolive

Panagakos_FotiOral health has been demonstrated to be associated with, and an important influencer of, overall health.  The role of prevention is critical to reducing, and eventually eliminating what the WHO has deemed an epidemic, caries or cavities in teeth.  This is the most prevalent disease among children, with more than 60% of 5 year olds having at least one cavity.  In addition, research over the last 25 years has shown that in patients who have a chronic disease, such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease, and concomitant serious gum or periodontal disease, the treatment of the oral disease will improve the control and management of the systemic chronic disease.

While these findings have stimulated action among the medical and dental communities to work collaboratively in identifying and treating oral disease in these very vulnerable patients, it is the fact that the oral disease is preventable in the first place which should take precedence in our management of this problem.  Developing and implementing preventative technologies is the solution to addressing both of these issues. Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Moving from the Envy of the World to the Puzzle of the World

Dear Research Advocate:

NIH Director Francis Collins was recently interviewed for a Wall Street Journal article that would reinvigorate even the weariest research advocate. Dr. Collins captured the legacy and unprecedented potential of research for health, as well as the counterintuitive neglect of it, in a truly compelling manner. Dr. Collins made similarly captivating comments yesterday at the Washington Ideas Forum: “We’re going from the envy of the world,” he said, “to the puzzle of the world. Other nations are mystified that we have stopped following our own playbook — the one they are using now to drive their economy and improve health and quality of life for their own populations.”

Of course they’re mystified. Policy makers are setting Americans up for needless suffering and America up for decline. It’s past time to follow the lead of, for example, the Australian government; despite battling austerity, it has announced an increase in funding for the Australian Research Council’s research grants. And Australia is not alone — China is now on track to overtake U.S. spending (actual spending and as a percentage of GDP) within five years. Continue reading →

November Marks American Diabetes Month

diabetesDid you know that nearly 26 million children and adults in the U.S. have diabetes, and another 79 million Americans have pre-diabetes and are at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), a Research!America member?

During the month of November, the ADA, along with other organizations, will raise awareness and understanding about this increasingly prevalent disease and ways to prevent it. This year’s theme is “A Day in the Life of Diabetes,” because diabetes doesn’t stop; it’s 24/7, 365 days a year. Visit ADA’s website, Twitter, and Facebook page to learn more about ways you can participate.

Researchers are making progress in identifying the genetics and “triggers” that predispose some individuals to develop Type 1 diabetes, but more research is needed to combat the disease. Tell Congress that we need more #curesnotcuts to help improve diabetes prevention and treatment. Speak up now!

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Winning Hearts and Minds and Votes

Dear Research Advocate:

It has been a week since the Budget Conference Committee’s first meeting. The next public meeting is scheduled for November 13. Staffs are at work, and various Members are talking. There are no concrete signs of progress. What I keep coming back to is the failure of our nation’s decision makers to recognize and act on the reality that the priorities of Americans are reflected in both discretionary and entitlement programs. The persistence of sequestration underscores Congress’ inability to make decisions and choose priorities. The sequestration era has run its course, dealing Congress record lows in terms of public support; it’s past time to end the era and move on.

Recently I shared my letter to the Budget Conference Committee; it argued for an end to sequestration, pointing out the importance of investing in medical research as a pragmatic strategy for decreasing the national debt and deficit. This week I followed up with a letter on the importance of health research, pointing out how it helps identify smart medical innovation and optimal health care financing and delivery. The letter showcases the essential role of health economics, health services, public health, behavioral and social science research in assuring quality medical innovation and smart health care delivery. We are concerned that if the research stakeholder community at large does not speak out for this critical research, it will be compromised or even defunded altogether. Please join us in raising your voice. Continue reading →

Public Health Thank You Day, November 25

580491_520295697990810_1202890633_nAs recent disease outbreaks have demonstrated, the need for public health is around the clock. But sequestration, across-the-board spending cuts, presents major challenges for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other federal health agencies.  Among them: depleted resources for immunizations, reduced support to state and local health departments, and deep cuts to programs to prevent cancer, heart attacks, strokes, and diabetes. In spite of the challenges, public health professionals continue to dedicate their time and energy to addressing major health threats.

CDC employees are among the many public health professionals who show tireless commitment to preventing disease and promoting good health. Health educators instruct children on the long-term effects of lifestyle choices; researchers pursue new treatments for evolving illnesses; regulators ensure prescription drug safety and effectiveness; physicians implement vaccination programs. They are public health heroes, working every day to improve others’ quality of life. Continue reading →

Opinion: Who We Work For

Op-ed by Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley published in The Scientist.

On winning hearts, minds, and votes for science

mary-woolley-webIn chartering the National Academy of Sciences 150 years ago, President Abraham Lincoln had the wisdom to establish a body that would provide scientific advice to the nation. Lincoln also had the wisdom to know that science doesn’t advance in a vacuum; he knew that there are political frames for science, which must serve—and be perceived to serve—the public’s interest. “Public sentiment is everything,” he said in 1858. “Without it, nothing can succeed; with it, nothing can fail.”

Public opinion polls document strong support for scientific research, including for basic research, but few Americans can name a living scientist or a place where research is conducted. Researchers, with careers on the line, can and must do a better job of articulating the value of science, because the virtual invisibility of our enterprise is not destined to activate general sentiment in our favor.

It’s tempting to think that biomedical science has “won” the hearts of the public, but that would be wrong. To say we have won the hearts of the public would be to imply that we have worked at it. In fact, researchers rarely work to win the hearts and minds of the public, rarely demonstrate accountability to the public in ways non-scientists can understand, and rarely talk about how science affects the quality of life of all Americans. To the contrary, researchers rely too much on the assumption of unspoken alignment, and—what’s worse—when questions arise, are quick to marginalize and malign those who don’t immediately agree. And even if we stipulate that we have mostly “won the hearts” of the public, it’s pretty clear that we haven’t won the minds of those who are making decisions about the future of the scientific enterprise in this country. And win votes we must if we are to assure that American preeminence in science continues. The challenge of winning hearts, minds, and votes is a collective task, and it is high time we embrace it. Continue reading →

Don lab coats

Letter to the editor by Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley published in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

mary-woolley-webBy visiting a University of Pennsylvania research facility last week, Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) underscored his commitment to making research and innovation an immutable national priority (“Scientists reeling from budget cuts,” Oct. 24). Adequately supported, research will allow us to overcome major health threats and drive the economy.

Americans have taken notice that research support is waning and, in addition, say they are concerned that officials in Washington are not paying enough attention to deadly diseases, polling done for our nonprofit advocacy alliance, Research!America, shows. If elected officials aren’t paying attention, who will lead the charge to assure robust funding for research now and in the future? Too many lives hang in the balance if we take medical progress for granted. Cures and treatments for deadly and disabling diseases can’t wait out nine more years of sequestration.