Category Archives: Global and Public Health R&D

Today is Give Kids a Smile Day!

Today is the 13th anniversary of the American Dental Association‘s Give Kids a Smile Day program. Aimed at raising awareness and helping to address the high level of oral disease in kids, especially in underserved communities, this program enables volunteers to provide free dental care to those in need and urges policymakers to increase funding for children’s oral health.

Dental caries, referred to as a “silent epidemic” by former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher, are the cause of many otherwise preventable health issues. Investing in comprehensive oral health care for children will result in fewer instances of dental caries in adulthood. Studies have shown that increased funding for combating oral health conditions results in fewer emergency room visits and lower health care costs across the board.

To help highlight the importance of dental health research, we have partnered with Colgate-Palmolive and the Children’s Dental Health Project to create the fact sheet:

Investment in Research Improves Lives and Saves Money Facts about: Children’s Dental Health Research.ChildrensDentalHealthResearch

“Addressing preventable disease is the norm in today’s health care system. It is the most effective way to reduce costs and improve health. This is no different for oral disease. Working together, industry and its partners can enhance the prevention and treatment of oral disease through the development and testing of new treatments that will improve oral health, overall health and quality of life for all.” – Dr. Foti Panagakos, DMD, Ph.D, global director of scientific affairs, Colgate-Palmolive

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Statement by Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley on the Confirmation of U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy

We applaud the confirmation of Dr. Vivek Murthy as U.S. surgeon general, a visionary thinker who is well-equipped to assume the role of America’s doctor. Throughout his career he has demonstrated a strong commitment to improving public health and unwillingness to accept the status quo: invaluable traits for such challenges as combating Ebola, the obesity epidemic, tobacco-related disease and other complex health issues that confront our nation. His determination to hit the ground running to address health disparities and reduce the stigma of mental health, with a clear understanding of the role of science and innovation in improving health outcomes, is also critically important to advancing public health. We look forward to working with Dr. Murthy to alleviate health threats that impact the health and well-being of all Americans.

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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/

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Time for Thanks (and) Giving

Dear Research Advocate:

Mark your calendar for two important days next week: First, next Monday, Dec. 1, is World AIDS Day. Check out our updated fact sheet, which provides a snapshot of HIV/AIDS and the transformative impact of HIV/AIDS research.  I especially hope that you will take the time to read the profile of Maria Davis, an individual living with HIV who works to help others with, or at risk of contracting, the disease.

When I think of what I’m thankful for, people like Maria are high on my list.  Which leads me to another reason to express gratitude, this time to the many organizations and individuals who participated in Public Health Thank You Day (PHTYD) on Nov. 24.  Research!America established this day of thanks to commemorate individuals like Maria whose profession or avocation is in the public health arena.  Participation this year was truly remarkable, with more than 750 tweets about #PHTYD (including a tweet from the Acting U.S. Surgeon General!) that reached over 1.7 million Twitter users.

But back to the future: the second key date is Giving Tuesday (Tuesday, Dec. 2). This day, shared on social media using the hashtag #GivingTuesday, serves as a national reminder to make charitable donations to the causes you value.  I hope you will consider making a contribution to Research!America and asking your networks to do the same.  Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor, the contributions you make in December will be matched one for one, up to $15,000.

Why donate to Research!America? Because every single minute of every single day, Americans are losing loved ones to deadly and disabling diseases that should be part of our past, not our future.  If our nation rallies behind U.S. research & development instead of neglecting it, lethal threats like Alzheimer’s, cancer, multiple sclerosis, post traumatic stress disorder and muscular dystrophy don’t stand a chance.  By engaging the public, partnering with the R&D community, and making enough noise to get the attention of the White House and Congress, we can speed medical progress and save lives. Click here for a testimonial that truly puts this cause into perspective.  And please don’t hesitate to stop by our website: www.researchamerica.org or contact Carol Kennedy at ckennedy@researchamerica.org or 703-739-2577 for more information on our work.

I hope you’re able to spend a few well-deserved days off this week with loved ones. A Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours,

Mary Woolley

Early-Career Public Health Professional: Alison Chiaramonte

In honor of Public Health Thank You Day, we will be highlighting public health professionals throughout the day. Our fifth professional today: Alison Chiaramonte, M.P.H., candidate at the Milken Institute of Public Health, George Washington University

alisonWhat drew you to a career in public health?

After college, I worked for a few years in IT consulting and while I enjoyed my colleagues and grew professionally in a great work environment, I did not feel passionate about the subject matter. I started exploring my personal interests, wondering if it would actually be possible to turn them into a career. I started to define my interests, which ranged from resource conservation and alternative energies to environmental health risks and chronic disease prevention. A friend encouraged me to look at various graduate programs and I felt a connection to GW’s public health program. I saw what the program graduates were doing and realized I could pursue a career that allowed me to express and practice my interests.

What has been the most rewarding component of your current program?

So far, it has been most rewarding to be in class or studying and feel a personal connection to a lot of the subject matter. I think to myself, “That’s what I want to know more about!” or “That’s what I want to dedicate my career to!” I didn’t realize, for example, that I could one day specialize in environmental risk factors for certain kinds of cancer without becoming an oncologist or other medical professional that did not speak to me. My program has shown me that not only is there a niche for me in public health to pursue my passions but that there are various niches I could pursue. It is also rewarding to know that I am building a career that will enable me to give back.  Continue reading →

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: Julie Babyar

In honor of Public Health Thank You Day, we will be highlighting public health professionals throughout the day. Our third  professional today is Julie Babyar, R.N., M.P.H., a science policy intern at Research!America.

What drew you to a career in public health?

JulieWhen I started college, I originally intended to follow an animal sciences path. I took a population health class and soon decided to study nursing. From there, I felt a very natural instinct and draw to public health. In public health, you have an opportunity to make a difference by problem solving for communities on a large scale as well as for the individual community member. Looking back, I was raised and grew up with a strong sense of community, so it’s a natural fit.

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

The position I have now is one of the most rewarding I’ve had. As an intern, I’m given so many opportunities to learn and connect with partners and stakeholders in medical research. I love understanding and shaping policy and advocacy for health, and my colleagues provide me with mentorship every day. Public trust is just as important as trust within the medical community for health policy, and great communication builds that for any organization. Having experience in multiple health sectors allows me to share my perspective as well. Truly, connecting and building relationships is my favorite part of the job. As a society, we don’t always agree on health issues and policies. Relationships help us to understand, compromise and build together, and that’s what I love about this job and this organization. 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 →

Research!America and Partners Salute Heroes on the Front Lines of Public Health

Public Health Thank You Day, November 24, 2014

ALEXANDRIA, Va.-November 20, 2014-As Thanksgiving approaches, Research!America and leading U.S. public health organizations urge Americans to salute public health professionals who go above and beyond to protect the health of our nation. Public Health Thank You Day honors all those unsung heroes who keep our drinking water safe and air clean, develop vaccines, track and investigate infections, and protect us against  threats  such as influenza, the Ebola and Enterovirus D68 outbreaks and natural disasters.

“Every day, public health professionals here and around the world work in challenging and sometimes dangerous situations to protect our health.  The Ebola epidemic in West Africa and cases of Ebola in the U.S. are a reminder of the global nature of public health threats,” said Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Whether they are working to keep us safe from infectious disease threats, or finding ways to promote healthy opportunities, thanks to all the dedicated public health professionals who work to keep us safe and healthy.”

These everyday heroes include our health inspectors, environmental health scientists, laboratorians, epidemiologists, public health researchers, sanitation workers, nurses and many other dedicated workers. The CDC, local health departments and various institutions within our public health infrastructure have come together to address recent outbreaks, and public health professionals are tackling these threats head-on – as they do with other health challenges on a daily basis. Continue reading →

Remembering the NTDs on “Public Health Thank You Day”

By Peter Hotez, M.D., Ph.D. Dr. Hotez is the President of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, Director of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, and founding Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. He is also Baker Institute Fellow in Disease and Poverty at Rice University, and University Professor at Baylor University, all located in the state of Texas.

In honor of Public Health Thank You Day, Dr. Hotez sits down to talk about his work on neglected tropical diseases and their importance in global public health initiatives:

hotezThe neglected tropical diseases – the “NTDs” – are a group of tropical infections that disproportionately plague the world’s poorest people in Africa, Asia, and the Americas. I used to refer to the NTDs as “the most important diseases you have never heard” until Ebola virus infection became a household name.

But Ebola virus infection is not even close to being the world’s most common NTD. Today, every single person living in extreme poverty suffers from at least one NTD. Many, like Ebola, are killer diseases such as African sleeping sickness and kala-azar. Indeed these NTDs killed hundreds of thousands of people in sub-Saharan Africa during the last half of the 20th century, most of them like today’s Ebola victims who live amidst conflict or in post-conflict countries and regions.

Still other NTDs are chronic and debilitating conditions such as hookworm, schistosomiasis, elephantiasis, river blindness and trachoma that thwart economic development because of their ability to damage agricultural workers and growing children, or adversely affect pregnancies and women’s health.

In the years following the launch of the 2000 Millennium Development Goals, the global public health community began waking up to the importance of NTDs and opportunities to control or eliminate them. A major approach has been to simultaneously target intestinal worms, schistosomiasis, elephantiasis, river blindness, and trachoma, with partial or complete so-called “rapid impact packages” of medicines administered once or twice yearly. The World Health Organization sometimes refers to this approach as preventive chemotherapy. Preventive chemotherapy is highly cost-effective in part because the major pharmaceutical companies are generously donating essential NTD medicines for these diseases and because they have a great safety profile and can be administered by community health workers or even school teachers. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) recently announced that more than one billion people have received these medicines through their support, while the British Department for International Development (DFID) has also provided large scale funding as well as the private END (Ending Neglected Disease) Fund. Our Global Network for NTDs is simultaneously providing strategically placed advocacy to promote NTD awareness and support for other European nations, and some of the BRICS countries.

In parallel, there is an urgent need to conduct research and development (R&D) for new NTD drugs, diagnostics and vaccines. We have seen the horrible consequences of not investing in these products for West Africa. As a result we face serious delays in getting new Ebola virus drugs and vaccines to the people who desperately need them. But Ebola is not alone: Our Sabin Vaccine Institute and Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, based at the National School of Tropical Medicine of Baylor College of Medicine has a portfolio of new vaccines to combat several other NTDs including hookworm infection, schistosomiasis, Chagas disease, leishmaniasis, and West Nile virus infection.   We have been successful at early stage development for these new vaccines, but like the Ebola virus vaccine problem we need to refine and improve the roadmap and business model for rapidly accelerating their final product and development and licensure.   We have started to work with the US State Department to see whether we might enlist key research enterprises of foreign governments to partner with us in order to advance such vaccines – a concept I refer to as “vaccine diplomacy”.

We have a long way to go. Preventive chemotherapy is still reaching less than 50 percent of vulnerable populations who deserve access to essential NTD medicines, while R&D for new NTD vaccines and drugs is mostly at a nascent stage. In West Africa this fall of 2014 we have seen the dramatic consequences of doing nothing for NTD threats such as Ebola. It is an especially tragic situation that we do not have anti-Ebola virus vaccines stockpiled and ready to roll out even though the technology has been available for at least a decade in some instances. My hope is that the humanitarian crisis created by possibly not having an Ebola vaccine in time for this 2014-15 epidemic might reignite the global public health and scientific community to rethink the strategic and economic importance of new NTD products.

On November 24, Research!America and public health organizations and advocates will 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. To learn more, visit www.publichealththankyouday.org.

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!

Member spotlight: Texas Biomedical Research Institute

By Robert Gracy, PhD, CEO of Texas Biomedical Research Institute

Dr  Gracy PicNow in its eighth decade of existence, the Texas Biomedical Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, has a mission “to improve the health of our global community through innovative biomedical research.” Texas Biomed has a breadth and depth of scientific inquiry coupled with an unparalleled collection of research resources, which in combination provides its researchers unique capabilities. Texas Biomed also views partnering with Research!America – a strong advocate for growing our country’s investment in biomedical funding – as retaining an effective ally in maintaining and eventually strengthening the backbone of our country’s preeminent position in the biomedical research field.  

In the Department of Genetics, researchers are examining the genes related to complex diseases such as cardiovascular illness, diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, macular degeneration, behavioral and psychiatric disorders, arthritis and osteoporosis – hoping to ultimately provide the foundation of knowledge that can lead to better treatment of these devastating illnesses and to personalize care according to the genetic profile of each patient. Continue reading →

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.

 

National Public Health Week

NPHWPublic health is the backbone of our society.  Without the contributions of public health initiatives, what new disease epidemic might we face and how many lives would be lost?  Successful public health programs depend on research, an often underappreciated facet of the system. By taking a critical look at the data and bringing the right programs to the right communities at the right time, research can target and increase the effectiveness of public health interventions.

This year, celebrate National Public Health Week by talking to your candidates for Congress.  Start a dialogue – tell them why research for medical progress and public health is important to you, and ask them where they stand.  You can send an email message to your candidate, send them a tweet (include the #AYCresearch hashtag) or attend a town hall near you and ask in person.  On Election Day, feel empowered to vote for the candidate who best reflects your priorities. If we don’t know where medical progress fits among the priorities of the people we elect, we will all pay the price.  Visit the Ask Your Candidates! website to learn more.

Few Americans Know Where Elected Officials and Candidates Stand on Government Support for Research and Innovation, New Polling Booklet Reveals

Research!America and partners launch national voter education initiative to elevate the priority of medical progress

ALEXANDRIA, Va.April 8, 2014—Two-thirds of Americans (66%) say it’s important for candidates running for office to assign a high priority to funding medical research, according to America Speaks, Volume 14, a compilation of key questions from public opinion polls commissioned by Research!America. Polling shows that Americans place a high value on U.S. leadership in medical innovation, yet only 12% say they are very well informed about the positions of their senators and representative when it comes to their support of medical and scientific research. www.researchamerica.org/poll_summary.

To help close this knowledge gap, Research!America and partner organizations are launching a national voter education initiative, Ask Your Candidates! Is Medical Research Progress a Priority? Through online and grassroots activities, social media strategies and on-the-ground events, congressional candidates will be urged to share their views on government policies and support for medical innovation conducted in both the public and private sectors. www.askyourcandidates.org.

“Candidates must do a better job articulating their vision for medical progress, clarifying what level of priority they assign to research as a way to assure improved health, well-being and economic security of all Americans,” said Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research!America. “Voters need to know whether their candidates view lifesaving medical research as an imperative or an afterthought.”

During election season, Americans want candidates to talk about medical progress. Nearly three-quarters (74%) say it’s important to know whether their candidates for Congress are supportive of medical and scientific research. Notably, more than half of respondents (53%) do not believe elected officials in Washington are paying enough attention to combating the many deadly diseases that afflict Americans. Continue reading →