Category Archives: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Statement by Research!America president and CEO Mary Woolley on President Obama’s State of the Union Speech

In his State of the Union address, President Obama highlighted the important role of research and innovation in growing a more prosperous and healthier nation. We’re excited about the launch of the Precision Medicine Initiative, which comes at a time when the challenge of conquering disease – all along the research spectrum, from discovery to translation to innovation and application – has never been more within our grasp. The inspiring story of William Elder, Jr. a medical school student and cystic fibrosis survivor, shows that science can deliver breakthroughs for patients with cystic fibrosis, cancer, Alzheimer’s and other diseases. The remarkable ability of our nation’s researchers to advance precision medicine to hone targeted treatments to improve individual patient outcomes is a compelling example of what can be accomplished with federal support. We’re getting closer and closer to achieving treatments that save time, save money and save lives because they are right the first time.

We can’t afford to ease up on our commitment to research, to assure we can put a whole range of diseases in the history books. A further reason, noted by the President, is that we need robust funding and policies to ensure we’re not behind the eight ball addressing domestic or global outbreaks like Ebola. Current funding levels for federal health agencies put researchers at an extreme disadvantage in pursuing studies that have the potential to cure disease and improve quality of life, and tax policies have stymied the development of new drugs. Policymakers must pivot from short-sighted thinking to formulating a long-term strategy that will bring new treatments across the finish line and spur growth in quality jobs. We think it’s past time to adopt a national strategy that will assure the U.S. retains its world leadership in science and innovation. A new Blue Ribbon Commission established by Congress to explore how science is perceived by the public will help stimulate a meaningful conversation with Americans about the societal and economic benefits of science. Continue reading →

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Federal Health Agencies 2014 Year in Review

Photo credit: NIH.gov

Photo credit: NIH.gov

From advances in diabetes research to record approval of drugs to treat rare diseases, taxpayer funded research and the effective employment of regulatory tools played a significant role in improving the health and wellbeing of Americans in 2014. Below is a year-end roundup of research highlights and scientific achievements from the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Science Foundation, Food and Drug Administration and Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

To fuel this momentum in scientific discovery and development, policymakers must commit to robust funding for the federal health agencies and policies that support private sector innovation. Take action today and tell your elected officials to make research for health a higher national priority in the 114th Congress.

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: “Congress: Strong letter follows… “

Dear Research Advocate:

So much is troubling our nation – evidenced in protests of recent grand jury decisions and the controversy over release of the Senate’s report on the CIA – that most people probably haven’t noticed or cared that the Congress is delaying and may even abort action on the long overdue funding of the federal fiscal year that began on Oct. 1.  People have grown tired of Congress missing self-imposed deadlines, only to say they can only act in the face of those deadlines, and now they are talking of doing it again.  And thus we are lulled into thinking it doesn’t matter what the Congress does.  But that would be wrong: priority-setting by the Congress plays a major role in determining the economic security and health status of the nation and everyone in it.

Right now, Congress is keeping the nation in limbo, and not just when it comes to funding deadlines. “How low can we go” does seem to be the theme of the appropriations process. If the currently negotiated plan is adopted and signed into law – and that is a big if – the good news is that one-time supplemental funding will be allocated to NIH, CDC and other agencies to work on advancing Ebola-related research and clinical trials. That aside, NIH and CDC would receive razor thin increases compared to FY14, as noted in our statement about the “Cromnibus.” NSF and FDA fare slightly better with increases reaching the level of full percentage points, 2.4 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively. AHRQ is slated to receive a decrease of .08 percent, but, importantly, the agency will at long last be given budget authority, i.e., will not have to rely on passing the hat, so to speak, to other agencies to help fund it. Now Congress must take AHRQ to a higher level of support if we are ever to get our arms around inefficiencies in health care delivery. Continue reading →

Statement by Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley on FY15 Cromnibus Spending Bill

The tiny increases included in the “Cromnibus” bill for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and our nation’s other health research agencies are just that. The underwhelming support for the NIH, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Science Foundation and the Food and Drug Administration following years of stagnant funding and budget cuts begs the question – how low can we go, given health threats the likes of which stand to bankrupt the nation?  And the decision to flat-fund the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality does not provide what it takes to reduce the much-complained of inefficiencies in our health care system. The pain and economic drain of one disease alone – Alzheimer’s – is not going to be effectively confronted without stronger investments in research. Every American who wants to see our nation overcome health threats, create jobs and shore up our economy for sustained prosperity must make it clear to the next Congress that it can and must do more, making research and innovation a strategic national priority.

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World AIDS Day 2014: Focus, Partner, Achieve: An AIDS-free Generation

World AIDS day, commemorated each year on Dec 1, aims to raise awareness about the virus, encourage advocates to redouble efforts to fight the epidemic, and remember those who have died and continue to suffer from the disease.

Photo credit: cdc.gov

Photo credit: cdc.gov

The 2014 World AIDS day theme “Focus, Partner, Achieve: An AIDS-free Generation,” speaks to how combined efforts and collaborations can bring us closer to a cure or vaccine. For example, public and private-sector funded research led to the development of Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART), which revolutionized the battle against HIV/AIDS according to Research!America’s HIV/AIDS fact sheet.

Medical research has played a critical role in reducing the risk of transmission and has led to new drugs that have transformed HIV/AIDS from a fatal to a chronic illness for millions worldwide. Patients like Maria Davis, professional entertainer and HIV/AIDS advocate, has benefited from advances in HIV/AIDS treatments.

Research!America member, amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS research and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are raising awareness on World AIDS Day by providing up-to-date resources and information describing the human and economic impact of HIV/AIDS. In FY14, U.S. federal funding to combat HIV/AIDS here and abroad and assist those affected by the disease totaled $29.5 billion, but more resources and funding are needed to tackle this global epidemic. Tell Congress that we need more funding for HIV/AIDS research today!

To find out more about the events happening on Dec. 1, visit http://aids.gov/

Early-Career Public Health Professional: Dinorah Lissette Calles

In honor of Public Health Thank You Day, we will be highlighting public health professionals throughout the day. Our fourth professional today: Dinorah Lissette Calles, Ph.D., M.P.H., lieutenant at the United States Public Health Service (USPHS) and epidemic intelligence service (EIS) officer (Class of 2013) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, assigned to North Dakota.

CallesDLWhat drew you to a career in public health?

I love the interdisciplinarity of public health. As an epidemiologist, understanding culture, values, beliefs and population behavior is fundamental to the understanding of multilevel determinants of health and knowing what information to gather, how to gather it and how to process and disseminate it. In my research to date, I have drawn from disciplines such as anthropology, history, psychology and education studies to apply appropriate field research and analytical methodologies. While epidemiology is of course rigorous and quantitative in methods, it also calls for a measure of creativity in design and application of methodology, rendering it a fascinating discipline. The service aspect of public health is also incredibly rewarding. At the end of the day, knowing that one’s work has the potential for impacting a community’s or population’s well-being is a tremendous privilege.

What has been the most rewarding component of your current position as an EIS officer?

An EIS assignment to a state health department allows for work in a broad range of health events, and having the opportunity to serve in diverse settings and in rich collaborations at all levels of public health – local, state, tribal, federal and international – has been nothing short of amazing. In my first year, I responded to a large healthcare — associated outbreak, coordinated a large multi-agency health screening event in an American Indian reservation, assisted in a state-level evaluation of a vaccine-preventable disease, worked in partnership with a large county to interview Hispanic community members about health beliefs and behaviors, among other projects. That my work has informed public health practice at the local and state level is humbling. Continue reading →

Early-Career Public Health Professional: Andrew Hennenfent

In honor of Public Health Thank You Day we will be highlighting public health professionals throughout the day. Our second  professional today is Andrew Hennenfent, D.V.M., M.P.H., a CDC/CSTE applied epidemiology fellow at the District of Columbia Department of Health.

What drew you to a career in public health?

AndrewAfter being accepted to veterinary school during my senior year of college, I attended a presentation given by the director of the DVM/MPH joint degree program at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine which centered on the critical role that veterinarians play in public health.  During the presentation, the speaker described the unique perspective veterinarians contribute to public health through their understanding of herd health dynamics and the pathogenesis of current and emerging zoonotic diseases. Growing up on a multigenerational family farm in western Illinois, I had already gained firsthand knowledge of these health issues and liked the idea of integrating my production animal background and future veterinary training into the field of public health with the ability to someday address health issues that have broad impacts on multiple species.

What do you enjoy most about your current position as an early career public health professional?

As a newly appointed CDC/CSTE Applied Epidemiology Fellow in infectious disease at the District of Columbia Department of Health, I enjoy the daily challenge of dealing with both animal and human based health concerns. Working at a local health department gives me the opportunity to interact with the general public on a regular basis through both disease investigations and wellness initiatives that address challenges as they arise. Since all response starts locally, it is rewarding to see the programs and projects I contribute to directly impact and improve the lives of the intended community groups. Continue reading →

Early-Career Public Health Professional: Sasha McGee

In honor of Public Health Thank You Day we will be highlighting public health professionals throughout the day today.  Our first professional is Sasha McGee, Ph.D., M.P.H., epidemic intelligence service officer at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, assigned to the District of Columbia Department of Health.

SashaWhat drew you to a career in public health?

My earliest educational and research experiences were guided by my passion to pursue a career in which my work would contribute to the improvement of health. After completing my doctoral training, I knew that I did not just want to conduct research but to participate in the translation of data into interventions that would benefit large populations. The field of public health seemed to be the perfect choice in terms of having the opportunity to both investigate and address health challenges.

What do you enjoy most about your current position as an early career public health professional?

What I enjoy most about my current position is the opportunity to participate in projects on a wide range of topics — I am always learning something new and no day is ever the same. I also appreciate the collaborative nature of my work. Continue reading →

Save the Date for Public Health Thank You Day, November 24

PHTD banner bluePlease join Research!America and leading U.S. public health organizations on Monday, Nov. 24, to celebrate Public Health Thank You Day, a chance to recognize public health professionals who work round-the-clock to protect the health of all Americans.

In order to facilitate your participation in Public Health Thank You Day, we have provided an online toolkit on the Public Health Thank You Day site. We encourage you to use these materials to issue your own press release, submit a letter to the editor, offer a certificate of thanks, share social media posts (#PHTYD) and more.

This year, in addition to thanking all public health heroes, we are highlighting the special roles of health professionals in our community, to salute those individuals who advance public health at all levels. We invite you to learn about the many careers which support public health, and join with us in calling attention to these extraordinary individuals.

Thank you for your ongoing participation in Public Health Thank You Day. If you participate on Monday, Nov. 24, please share your activities with us at publichealththankyouday@researchamerica.org!

Statement by Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley on White House Emergency Funding Request to Congress to Fight Ebola

November 5, 2014

Fighting Ebola and other infectious disease threats is a rightful and critical facet of our national defense. As Congress considers the President’s comprehensive emergency funding request for Ebola, we urge members of Congress to respond on a bipartisan basis. Americans expect our nation’s leaders to present a unified front against national threats, allocating the funding needed to protect our nation. We also expect common sense, which means treating an emergency as an emergency and refraining from haphazardly cutting funding for other priorities in order to “pay for” protecting the American public. Sustained investments in research are necessary to enhance our capability to fend off and prevent other major health challenges that could disrupt medical progress and create economic instability.

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Time to be honest with ourselves

Dear Research Advocate:

This week’s CDC announcement of the worst-case Ebola scenario is staggering. Saying, “Let’s be honest with ourselves …” President Obama addressed the UN this morning on the escalating threat posed by Ebola, urging world leaders to work together to address this truly global crisis. The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) program, which received additional funding for Ebola drug development as part of the recently passed continuing resolution (CR), is a terrific example of how the public and private sectors can work together to develop drugs for national and global health threats like Ebola. BARDA provides market incentives so that private sector innovators can work on noncommercial emergencies. It’s a cost-effective strategy since it precludes the need for government to build drug development capacity the private sector already has, and it’s a good reminder that medical and health research is not about government funding, academic research, or private sector R&D. It’s about all of these things and all of us, working together to save lives.

Let’s be honest with ourselves about something else: policies that cripple private sector investment in research are stifling science.  One such policy involves the research and development (R&D) tax credit, which – despite historical bipartisan support – expired at the end of 2013 and has not been reinstated. Businesses of all sizes across a wide swath of scientific sectors rely on predictable, annual extensions of this tax credit (not that annual extensions are ideal; Congress would also be wise to finally make this credit permanent). Please consider sending a message to your representatives about the importance of reinstating and enhancing the R&D tax credit. Here are two good resources, one nationwide quantitative analysis from the National Association of Manufacturers and one qualitative account of the effects on businesses in Pennsylvania. Members of Congress must work together and quickly upon their return to Washington after the election to not only reinstate the R&D tax credit, but to enhance its reach and effectiveness. And they must pass an appropriations package that recommits to scientific innovation. Note I use the word “must,” not “should.”  When one assumes the role of leader, displaying leadership should not be an option.

And let’s be honest that we are under-investing in our federal research agencies. Determined to alter this state of affairs, Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY-26), along with Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-03), recently introduced the Accelerating Biomedical Research Act in the House. The congressman is using some of his district work period/campaigning season to tour institutions that receive NIH funding in his district. If only more incumbents and challengers followed his example!  Rather than despairing that there aren’t more like Mr. Higgins, now is the time to work toward the day that there will be! Candidates who hear voters like you speak passionately now about the importance of advancing medical progress are more likely to become champions for research when they enter Congress next January. Personal stories about why research matters in your life and in your community make for some of the most persuasive advocacy tools.

Let’s be honest that along with personal stories, data truly is important (my advice: tell your story first, after that, add data). Consider the new easy-to-use district-level federal research funding fact sheets from the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). These local, by-the-numbers summaries provide information about the number of grants received in nearly 400 congressional districts from the NIH, NSF, DOE Office of Science, and Agriculture and Food Research Initiative in the Department of Agriculture and are useful additions when making your case for research.  We urge you to share this data as well as your commitment to voter education with five of your friends and family!  Join us in the “5 this Fall” campaign on social media.

Final note of honesty about social media … it works! Think “Ice Bucket Challenge” and think about the new ACT for NIH campaign, which is using “selfies” as a way to remind voters and policymakers that research is for everyone, leading to better lives for ourselves, our friends and our loved ones. Reaching an ever-expanding audience via social media is critical. I hope you’ll join Act for NIH by sharing a selfie on social media with the hashtag #ACT4NIH.

Mary Woolley

Federal Health Agencies Ramp Up Efforts to Fight Ebola

Colorized transmission electron micrograph revealing some of the ultrastructural morphology displayed by an Ebola virus virion. Photo credit: Frederick A. Murphy

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sent more than 50 disease detectives and other highly trained experts to West Africa to battle Ebola. While here in the U.S., more than 350 CDC staff are working on logistics, communications, analytics, management and other functions to support the response 24/7 at CDC’s Emergency Operations Center.“We are fulfilling our promise to the people of West Africa, Americans, and the world, that CDC would quickly ramp up its efforts to help bring the worst Ebola outbreak in history under control,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH.  “We know how to stop Ebola.  It won’t be easy or fast, but working together with our U.S. and international partners and country leadership, together we are doing it.” Read more here.

Meanwhile, researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) are studying Ebola and seeking better ways to diagnose and treat the disease. In 2013, the NIAID reported spending $42.49 million on Ebola research. Public-private partnerships are critical to containing and preventing such deadly outbreaks. The NIAID is collaborating with Okairos, a biotech company, to develop Ebola vaccines. The NIH is working with the drugmaker Mapp Biopharmaceutical to scale up production of its Ebola drug Zmapp and partnering with BioCryst to advance the company’s experimental treatments. 

Sustained and robust federal funding is needed to respond to global health threats, and to support the development of vaccines to combat Ebola and other deadly diseases. Policymakers must assign a higher priority to medical research to ensure the health and wellness of Americans.

Click here to urge your representatives to support increased funding for federal health agencies in FY15.

 

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Can we put a dent in the costly toll of suicide?

Dear Research Advocate: 
 
The loss of American Icon Robin Williams has riveted national attention on suicide, one of the 10 most common causes of death in the United States. Today, we are releasing our updated fact sheet on suicide that you can use when meeting with lawmakers and educating others about the impact research can have. Efforts to prevent suicide rightly draw on research findings. But progress has been painfully slow, stymied by serious gaps – partly due to severely limited funding – in the basic research base that precedes private sector development, and stymied by the equivalent of handcuffs placed on social science research.

The notion promulgated by some in the Congress that social sciences research doesn’t add enough value to merit federal funding is not just unfounded, it’s holding us back. Social sciences research saves lives. Case in point: behavioral research guided the development of a suicide intervention that was pilot tested in schools in Georgia and Connecticut and resulted in a 40% reduction in attempted suicides. It has since been implemented in schools across the country. This is just one example of social sciences research at work.

Research moves faster when patient advocates engage. This is the history of the nation’s commitment to defeating polio, to ramping up HIV/AIDS research, to prioritizing breast cancer research and women’s health research overall. Writing in the New Yorker last month, Seth Mnookin described the impact that “dedicated … well-informed families” can have in pushing progress. In his responsive letter to the editor, Peter L. Saltonstall, CEO of the National Organization for Rare Disorders, focused on the use of social media by patient groups to establish global registries, taking full advantage of abilities we didn’t have just a few years ago, and in so doing, saving lives. But there is another message here. The research community must work more closely with patient advocates in order to drive medical innovation. As one of the researchers in the Mnookin article said, “Gone are the days when we could just say, ‘We’re a cloistered community of researchers, and we alone know how to do this.’” Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Research!America: Flat won’t get the job done

Dear Research Advocate:

Today, Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) released the Senate’s 302(b) allocations, which were approved by the Appropriations Committee. As you know from last week, the House 302(b) allocation for the Labor-HHS subcommittee is approximately $1 billion less in fiscal year 2015 than it was in FY 14.The Senate’s allocation for FY 15 is roughly the same as it was in FY 14. The bottom line is that, as expected, we have our work cut out for us to achieve the increases needed for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and our nation’s other health research agencies. Fortunately, Senator Mikulski and other leaders from both sides of the aisle understand the importance of investing in research to drive U.S. innovation.  That doesn’t reduce advocates’ workload, but it makes success more than a longshot.

Earlier this week, both the House and the Senate Appropriations subcommittees on Agriculture considered bills that would fund the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in FY 15. The House version calls for a $23 million increase (less than 1%) while the Senate version provides a $36 million increase. While appropriators deserve credit for finding additional dollars for the FDA given overall FY 15 budget constraints, this agency’s responsibility for protecting the very safety of Americans requires more dollars than this.  Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Research!America: The good, the bad, and the ugly

Dear Research Advocate:

Congress continues to pay particular attention to – and make decisions bearing on – the pace of medical progress. To briefly count the ways:

The Senate Labor-HHS Appropriations subcommittee heard testimony yesterday from agency heads within HHS about the significance of health-related spending, including spending on medical and health research. Read our written testimony here.

Congressman Upton (R-MI-06), the Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee (which has jurisdiction over authorizing legislation for NIH, CDC, FDA and AHRQ) and Congresswoman Diana DeGette (D-CO-01), a member of the Committee, launched their 21st Century Cures initiative with a roundtable discussion focused on identifying what actions are necessary to maintain our nation’s place as the world’s innovation leader. While Reps. Upton and DeGette are champions of research who should be commended for working to strengthen U.S. medical innovation, there is always the risk that Congress will veer into micromanagement of NIH, stymie FDA’s efforts to ensure that private sector innovators are rewarded for ensuring the safety and efficacy of their medical advances, or “hold off” on providing the funding needed to accelerate medial progress until  longer-term strategies are in place. Your participation can help make this effort a success, and the initiative has established an email address you can use if you wish to give input: cures@mail.house.gov.

So that’s the good. Continue reading →