Dear Research Advocate:
News of the rising death toll from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has captured attention in the U.S. With the arrival of two American patients for treatment in Atlanta earlier this week, we are reminded of our truly global society and the importance of a nimble research ecosystem. Complex global disease threats exemplify the importance of both the public and private sectors in protecting our health. Why, then, are we not fully funding the NIH, CDC and FDA to ensure the robust public health infrastructure needed to respond to population-wide threats, to pursue vaccine development and other prevention strategies, and to develop new treatment options for Ebola and a host of other threats? Why have we not truly empowered industry and public-private partnerships with a regulatory and tax environment worthy of the 21st century? Readers of these letters don’t need to be persuaded, but can be the persuaders of those who are resisting. Persistent, ill-informed arguments include: we can’t afford more federal support, when in fact we can’t afford the lack of it; our nation’s tax structure need not be competitive with that of peer nations; or industry can act alone. Our job is to effectively refute them.
Speaking of Africa, the Africa Summit held here in Washington, D.C., earlier this week provided another sort of attention to that continent, which has a swiftly emerging middle class, the youngest population in the world and which, by 2050, will have a population twice the size of China! Those who are stuck in the “aid” model for assuring that Africa realizes its potential — including its potential as a market — may not realize that there is a crying need for robust science, technology and STEM education as a component of African development if we expect to see self-sustaining economies. Read more in a pre-Summit op-ed published in last week’s New York Times.
As summer rolls toward an end, I hope you are considering meeting with your lawmakers and future elected officials at campaign events in your area. Put aside your likely agreement with the public at large, which in recent polls expresses new lows in terms of confidence in Congress. Whether we disdain it or not, Congress will eventually — and if only by kicking the can down the road — make decisions that all of us have to live with. Someone will elect or re-elect members of Congress. I urge you to be among those voters who stay engaged with the political process, if only because you have more than the usual level of influence right now, while so many citizens are opting out! Two good ways to interact with candidates in August are:
- Attend a town hall meeting and make your voice heard: Candidates hold events all the time, often with last-minute notice. Keep an eye on your local paper or candidates’ websites for town halls or meet and greets. If you are able to ask a question about the candidate’s stance on medical research, let us know how it went by sending a quick email to firstname.lastname@example.org. And please reach out if we can help facilitate you or others in your networks attending!
- Upload a selfie and tweet it at your candidates: Selfies highlighting the need for continued medical progress are a popular component of the Ask Your Candidates! voter education initiative. If you haven’t yet, take a selfie and tweet it at your candidates to let them know why you care about medical progress. You can use the sign we created or design your own. And please ask others to do the same. To view the terrific selfies submitted so far, click here.
If you’d also like to visit your lawmakers in person in Washington, D.C., this fall, please register to join the Rally for Medical Research Hill Day on Thursday, Sept. 18. Research!America is a proud sponsor of the Rally Hill Day, which is hosted and organized by the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). For more information about the Rally, please click here.
One more item for your August to-do list: don’t forget to nominate yourself or a colleague for the 2015 AcademyHealth HSR Impact Award, which recognizes outstanding health services research that has made a positive impact on health policy and/or practice, and has been successfully translated into health policy, management or clinical practice. The deadline for nominations is Friday, Aug. 29.