Category Archives: Uncategorized

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Dispelling a Few Myths

Dear Research Advocate:

Myth #1: Congress doesn’t pay attention during the August recess. Not true! Many town hall meetings are planned. Since the debt ceiling and appropriations negotiations are coming up in September, the August recess is actually a very important time for advocacy. Use this month to drive the point home that medical research should not be subjected to budget cuts by attending a town hall meeting, meeting with district staff and participating in our social media campaign, #curesnotcuts. Click here for sample messages, or draw from a recent op-ed penned by The Honorable John Edward Porter, Research!America chair. The op-ed ran in several McClatchy-Tribune newspapers across the country last weekend. In it, he highlights the dangers that indiscriminate budget cuts pose to our medical and health research ecosystem.

Myth #2: It makes no difference when scientists speak out. On the contrary, one of the most effective strategies for promoting and protecting research is public engagement by scientists. It may seem like a waste of time or an unjustifiable obligation, but if scientists don’t speak up about their work, the funding that allows that work may evaporate. In a recent entry on his website, David Eagleman, a PhD researcher who recently received an award from the Society for Neuroscience, makes the case that the benefits (such as inspiring critical thinkers, stemming the flow of bad information, informing public policy and more) clearly outweigh the cost of time to engage in outreach and advocacy. For those ready to engage, some important points and valuable tips on how to communicate clearly and effectively were highlighted in yesterday’s Nature blog. Research!America Board member and AAAS CEO Alan Leshner is among the experts quoted. Continue reading →

Advocacy Opportunities at 40,000 Feet

By William (Bill) R. Brinkley, Ph.D., TAMEST’s 2012 President

Brinkley 2012 PresidentSometimes you find luck sitting by your side at the most opportune of moments.  For example, what would you do if you suddenly found yourself seated next to a key member of the U.S. Congress on a two and a half hour flight to Washington, D.C.?  Be prepared, it could happen to you!

If you are a frequent traveler like me, you probably prefer to read, daydream or sleep on most flights.  But what would you do if you suddenly recognized that your seat mate was a VIP—say, a key member of the U.S. Senate or House of Representatives?  You might recognize it as a terrific opportunity to put in a good word for particular issues of great importance to you or society.  Say for instance, an increase in funding for biomedical research or pending legislation for another cause that might impact your future and that of your co-workers and colleagues.

This actually happened to me a few years ago as a biomedical researcher and president of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) advocating for a campaign to double the funding of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).   At the time, I was traveling to Washington, D.C. frequently to visit key members of the legislature to encourage support for the “doubling” as it came to be known.  One key member of the House of Representatives, Congressman Tom DeLay was thought to be a hopeless holdout—but a key individual to get on our side.  As the Majority Whip, DeLay earned the nickname “The Hammer” for his enforcement of party discipline in close votes and his reputation for wreaking political vengeance on opponents. After making numerous unsuccessful attempts to get an audience with DeLay, I finally gave up! Continue reading →

When it comes to prevention of chronic disease, what one policy change would have the greatest impact on moving from “promise” to “results?”

by Mary Woolley, Research!America President and CEO. This entry was originally posted as a guest contribution to PhRMA’s Conversations forum.

mary-woolley-webA shift in attitude among elected officials is necessary if this nation is to succeed in combating disease and stemming the rise of health care costs. Federal funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and other agencies that conduct medical and health research has not kept pace with scientific opportunity, jeopardizing our ability to find cures for deadly disease and to maintain our global competitive edge. Medical research has not risen to the upper ranks of our nation’s priorities in the halls of Congress; advocacy from stakeholders is critical to changing this.

Underfunded federal agencies that should be providing the catalyst for private sector innovation to help bend the cost curve are instead forced to cut and cut. Even as federal funding diminishes, the burden of disease rages on, exacting a tremendous financial and emotional toll on patients and families stressed by learning of delays in the next phase of promising research that could one day lead to cures. And not only are our elected officials giving too little attention to key federal agencies, they are not prioritizing policy-making that will incentivize the private sector to accelerate the development of new treatments and therapies for patients. There is a lot of talk about the value of innovation, but not a lot of action to stimulate it.   Continue reading →

Major Study Finds That Overall Population Health in U.S. Has Improved, But Has Not Kept Pace With Other Wealthy Nations

Americans are living longer lives but are spending more years afflicted with major illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease, kidney disease, and mental and behavioral disorders, according to a study published online in the Journal of American Medical Association. Researchers show that the overall population health improved in the U.S. in the last few decades, however, illness and chronic disability now account for nearly half of the country’s health burden.

The objective of the study was to measure the burden of diseases, injuries and leading risk factors in the U.S. from 1990 to 2010 and to compare these measurements with the 34 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The researchers found that U.S. life expectancy for both sexes increased from 75.2 years in 1990 to 78.2 years in 2010; during the same period, healthy life expectancy increased from 65.8 years to 68.1 years. During this time period, improvements in population health in the U.S. did not keep pace with other wealthy nations. The authors note that the U.S. spends the most per capita on health care across all countries yet lags behind other high-income countries for life expectancy and many other health outcome measures.

In a recent national public opinion poll, two-thirds of Americans (66%) say that their quality of life has been improved by medical research and that the cost of health care is the most critical health issue in America today. We must continue to urge policy makers about the importance of funding medical research if we want to live healthier – not just longer – lives.

The full study is available online: http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1710486

Editor’s Note: This study is supported in part by the Intramural Program of the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Guest Post: LFA’s National Lupus Advocacy Summit

By Sara J. Chang, Government Relations and Public Policy Manager, Lupus Foundation of America.

Lupus“We are lupus activists, and we’re here to tell our stories and make our voices heard throughout Capitol Hill!” That was the empowerment felt during the Lupus Foundation of America’s biennial National Lupus Advocacy Summit held June 24-25, 2013.  It is always an energizing and rewarding event for our lupus activists and 2013 was no exception.  We had meetings with 176 Congressional offices, involving 220 people representing 30 states. Our online activists also came out in force, generating 3,503 emails and phone calls to Congress during the two-day event!

We took to Capitol Hill to urge Congress to support funding the National Institutes of Health (NIH) at $32 billion and to pass H.R. 460, the Patients’ Access to Treatments Act (PATA), to ensure access to treatments for lupus and other chronic conditions.  Lupus activists reinforced their request when they presented more than 30,000 petition signatures collected from individuals calling upon Congress to expand the medical research effort on lupus. (You can still sign the online petition at www.cruelmystery.org.) Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: What FAA furloughs mean for science…

Dear Research Advocate,

Media attention to the impact of sequestration-forced furloughs at the FAA, causing airport delays, has put both Congress and the administration on the defensive. Senate Majority Leader Reid has introduced legislation to delay sequestration until a broader deficit reduction solution can be negotiated, and there is a Republican-led effort to prevent the closure of towers and stop the furloughs. It is unclear where these efforts will lead, but there clearly is power in showcasing concrete damage to our citizenry and our economy as a way to illustrate the larger problem: Sequestration isn’t just a delayed flight issue, it is huge, strategic mistake for our nation. More of us must call on Congress to dispense with Band-Aid discussions and negotiate a deficit reduction solution that encompasses tax reform and entitlements and restores crucial discretionary funding to the many government functions that are being senselessly compromised by sequestration. Our imperative is to showcase research as a prime example of a public priority strangled by sequestration and tight caps on discretionary spending. We must work to put damage to medical and health research funding in the headlines and for advocates to be seen and heard on Capitol Hill and around the nation. A diversity of research advocacy organizations are working to initiate joint, in-district advocacy in selected districts during the Memorial Day recess. We urge your participation; the larger the numbers involved, the stronger the impact. Please click here to access an information form you can use to let us know if your organization may be able to participate. You can email the form to edehoney@researchamerica.org. Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Champions at work, advocates at the ready

Dear Research Advocate,

Senators Casey (D-PA) and Burr (R-NC), recently honored with our Whitehead Award for Research Advocacy, have joined forces again with a bipartisan letter calling for a strong commitment to NIH funding in FY 14. Please take a moment now to urge your senators to sign on to this letter. And say thank you to Senators Burr and Casey for being champions for research!

In past letters, I’ve written about attempts by Congress to micromanage and in some cases, attack critical components of our nation’s research portfolio. The social sciences have been targeted time and time again despite the immense value of these programs and the return on investment they represent. In response, the NSF has released a report, “How Social, Behavioral, and Economic Research Addresses National Challenges.” It will prove useful in your advocacy for these important avenues of research. Next week, COSSA invites you to a briefing on the role social sciences play in improving our response to national disasters – a topic that seems more relevant than ever in light of recent events.

Meanwhile, there has been yet another blow to our nation’s public health capacity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has recently been in the news as a first responder to the emergence in China of a human strain of a potentially deadly flu previously found only in animals, reportedly received another fiscal year 2013 funding cut. This $374 million cut, the result of a decision by the Administration to execute a shift in funding away from the Prevention and Public Health Fund, is just the most recent of a series of devastating budget cuts to CDC, an agency with a broad and important mission held back by a tiny budget. The nation at large won’t notice the diminution of CDC until the next public health disaster strikes home; and by then, it could be too late. For more information and suggestions for advocacy, contact the Campaign for Public Health Foundation. Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: A thorn-laden rose

Dear Research Advocate,

The President’s budget is out and it’s a mixed bag. First, the good news. NSF was given a significant funding boost, $593M over 2012 levels, NIH funding was increased by $470M, and AHRQ, via budget trade-offs, looks to have been boosted by $64M. The increases are from FY12 to FY14, since the President’s budget replaces sequestration in a different way than either Congressional body (see more below). The not so good news in the President’s budget is that other health research agencies did not fare well. The CDC budget was cut deeply, especially prevention programs. FDA was essentially flat -funded. And entitlement-reform may pose a challenge to innovation.

The different ways the three budgets, President, Senate and House, deal with sequestration is symptomatic of the continuing failure to reach agreement on anything resembling comprehensive legislation, including so-called “grand bargains.” The fact that there is so much attention to medical research in the President’s budget, as well as on the floor of the Senate recently, and from a number of Members of Congress, speaks to the progress the research advocacy community is making in bringing medical research to the forefront. But success to date has not diminished the need for heightened advocacy for public health and social sciences research, nor the imperative of carefully evaluating the full consequences of changes to entitlements. The three budgets deal with entitlements in different ways, but with similar ill-effect when it comes to innovation. There is no question that we need tax and entitlement reform, and no question that sequestration must be eliminated; however, we cannot thrive as a nation or succeed at deficit reduction if entitlement reforms come at the expense of private sector innovation.  See our statement on the President’s budget here.

Speaking of social science research — so clearly under fire —  it is not too late to RSVP to a Capitol Hill briefing we are co-hosting tomorrow on economic research. There is a terrific lineup of speakers.

I know many of you attended the Rally for Medical Research on Monday here in Washington,  a coalition effort led by the AACR. Thousands of like-minded research advocates and a wonderful array of speakers, including our board chair, The Honorable John Porter, gathered to crank up the volume for research. In his remarks, Mr. Porter urged advocates to get fighting mad or we risk continued cuts from Congress. Review his remarks here; then, take a moment to participate in the Rally’s on-going text messaging campaign to urge Congress to assign a high priority to medical research. You can view press coverage of the event and the full list of speakers. During the event, social media attention was strong — messaging trended #2 globally on Twitter.  That’s the level of volume and attention we must continue to maintain if we want to see a happy ending to budget negotiations.  Please do your part!

More than 50 Nobel laureates are doing their part; they have joined forces to send a letter to Congress urging them to fund, rather than freeze or cut, research and development. In the letter, the Laureates cite their deep concern over reduced funding levels and the negative impact this will have on the next generation of scientists and ultimately, upon our nation’s economic vitality. It’s a good reminder that the full science community is in this battle together.  Take a moment now to echo their message by urging your representative to sign on the Markey-McKinley letter calling for a $1.5B boost to NIH funding. Click here to see the list of current signers. If your representative is on the list, be sure to thank them for standing up for research. If they haven’t signed-on yet, click here to send them a message.

On Monday, we released our latest national poll, focused on chronic pain and drug addiction. Surprisingly, only 18% of the poll respondents believe chronic pain is a major health problem, yet two-thirds know someone who has sought relief from chronic pain. Huge majorities are concerned about  abuse or misuse of prescription medications; the need for better understanding of how to address chronic pain literally cries out for research. You can view our media release here.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

Statement from Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley on President Obama’s FY14 Budget Proposal

The president’s FY14 budget proposal offers a lifeline for medical research to replace sequestration’s damaging footprints. The budget includes $31.3 billion for the National Institutes of Health, as well as increases for the Food and Drug Administration and National Science Foundation. These increases would take our nation in the right direction, but we’re concerned that budget proposals from Congress – one from each of the House and Senate – unlike the president, fail to reverse sequestration. Sequestration, 10 years of across-the-board spending cuts, will drag our nation down from its leadership position in research and development as other countries aggressively ramp up investments, attracting American businesses and young scientists concerned that federal funding is on the decline, that the U.S. no longer prioritizes research. Policy makers must start acting in the best interests of this nation and tackle tax and entitlement reform to end sequestration.

Our nation has the most sophisticated medical research ecosystem in the world; yet our elected officials have ignored the short- and long-term consequences of dismantling it via sequestration – more deaths from preventable diseases, increased joblessness and soaring health care costs as more Baby boomers become afflicted with Alzheimer’s, cancer, heart disease and other life-threatening, costly illnesses.

While the president’s budget increases federally-funded medical research, Congress and the administration must look more deeply into the consequences of dramatic cuts to Medicare Parts B and D, which cover crucial medical innovations including prescription drugs, biologics, and medical devices.  If Medicare undervalues these preventative, diagnostic, and treatment tools, access and innovation will both suffer. The counterproductive effect of slowed innovation and access barriers could be increased hospital and other health care costs. We’re also disappointed that the president’s budget cuts funding for the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention which is already operating on a severely depleted budget.  Cuts to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality which identifies waste and duplication in our health care system while combating deadly medical errors are also a strategic mistake.  Policymakers must tread carefully in the coming weeks to avoid decision-making that will endanger the health and economic prosperity of our country.

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A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: This is your BRAIN on research

Dear Research Advocate,

On Tuesday, the president announced a new $100 million brain research initiative (BRAIN) that will involve NSF, NIH and DARPA and include support from a number of independent research institutes and private foundations. The fact that the White House has announced this “moonshot” is an important sign that research is securing its rightful role as a top national priority, which is critical to our collective goal of eliminating sequestration and aligning research funding with scientific opportunity. The president will include BRAIN in his FY14 budget, which will be released April 10.

In CQ, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) expressed support for the BRAIN initiative but commented that it should be funded by redirecting money from social and political science programs, a sentiment echoed in a statement from Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) office. Social and political science programs are a critical piece of our nation’s research portfolio. We are cosponsoring a Hill briefing on this topic Friday — Economics Research: Saving Lives and Money. Leader Cantor has also announced a new bill that would increase NIH funding by $200 million in order to support new research that may include pediatric diseases like autism, paying for it by redirecting public funding away from presidential campaigns.

Sequestration remains a topic generating huge interest in the media. Our community is succeeding in making sure the impact of sequestration on science is part of the conversation. USA Today ran an article describing how reduced funding and success rates for basic research is leading young researchers away from careers in academic science. The Huffington Post published a thought-provoking op-ed co-authored by Drs. Neal Lane and Peter Hotez at Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine, respectively. They discuss the importance of creating a cadre of scientist-advocates or “civic-scientists” in order to engage with the public and policy makers. In The Hill, Dr. Leroy Hood, president of the Institute for Systems Biology, describes how medical breakthroughs can help solve the budget crisis through a new era of P4 medicine, which could deliver lifesaving cures and treatments to lower health care spending while powering our economy. PBS’ “NewsHour” and MSNBC’s Chris Hayes covered sequestration’s impact on science last evening and on their websites. Local media are highlighting how sequestration could impact individual institutions, such as this article illustrating the impact on front-line medical research. For those of you at institutions that have not as yet been covered by the media, now is the time to write an op-ed or reach out to your local newspaper. We can help; just ask.

The next big statement the research community will be making about the importance of research will be the Rally for Medical Research on April 8. I hope to see you there! Our board chair, former Congressman John Porter, will be among the many research champions speaking out  at the event sponsored by the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). We are working to continue the momentum of the Rally so that the value of bringing together so many organizations (175 and counting) can be leveraged on a continuing basis.

Watch for our release of a new poll in conjunction with a panel discussion to be held on Capitol Hill, Conquering Pain & Fighting Addiction, on April 8 at 4 p.m. Conquering chronic pain without fear of addiction is a goal research can help address. These are topics that are underappreciated even as they are highly charged, causing great anguish as well as great suffering.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: We can’t let up now

Dear Research Advocate,

Glimmers of hope can be found in the dire funding situation we face under sequestration. The continuing resolution (C.R.) funding the government through the end of the fiscal year (September 30) included very small increases for NIH, CDC, NSF and FDA; AHRQ was flat funded. But the fact remains that these increases were overwhelmed by the effect of sequestration, which remains in place and will continue to weigh us down for 10 years unless overturned. Our champions in Congress are speaking out and taking a stand on behalf of research as the budget negotiation proceeds. Reps. McKinley (R-WV) and Markey (D-MA) have co-authored a letter to House appropriators calling for $32 billion for NIH in FY14, a $1.5 billion increase. Take action right away and urge your representatives to sign on! Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) delivered a powerful floor speech highlighting the bipartisan importance of investing in NIH. In the Senate, Sens. Durbin, Mikulski, Moran and Cardin sponsored an amendment to the budget resolution calling for increased investment for biomedical research at the NIH. While this move is largely symbolic, it demonstrates the level of bipartisan commitment of our champions. You can view Senator Durbin’s statement here as well as the Research!America statement. And special thanks are due to Senator Harkin for his effort to provide NIH with a $244 million increase as part of the C.R. His sustained leadership has helped in so many ways to sustain NIH through good times and bad. Read our statement on his amendment here.

Congress is on recess and getting an earful from their constituents. A new public opinion poll shows that people are extremely angry at Congress but don’t see that sequestration is going to be a problem. That’s why it’s important to connect the dots. Hooray for a flurry of articles published in newspapers in Baltimore, Lancaster (PA), Los Angeles and Seattle —all emphasizing the damage being done by sequestration. More are called for! In a pulling-no-punches editorial in Science, Dr. Bruce Alberts lays out his concerns for the future of research, a future that is closely linked to the decisions our elected officials will make over the coming months. He invites responses; you can weigh in.

Many of you may be aware of our upcoming panel discussion on April 8 — Conquering Pain & Fighting Addiction: Policy Imperatives to Combat a Growing Health Crisis — featuring thought leaders on issues relating to pain and addiction. This a critical topic of growing national importance with a major role for research — I hope you can join us. Register here. Earlier in the day, the entire staff of Research!America will join tens of thousands of advocates at the Rally for Medical Research on the steps of the Carnegie Library in Washington, DC. Let’s all join forces that day to drive home the message that research must be a higher national priority.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

Research!America Hosts NTD Panel

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From left: Karen Goraleski, LeAnne Fox, Kristy Murray, Brian D’Cruz, Rachel Cohen, Mark Rosenberg

On March 14, Research!America hosted a neglected tropical disease panel at the Consortium of Universities for Global Health (CUGH) conference, “Are NTDs a Growing Threat? Research, Access and Next Steps.” The conversation was moderated by Karen Goraleski, Executive Director of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) and featured the following panelists: Rachel Cohen, Regional Executive Director of the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi); Brian D’Cruz, Emergency Physician with Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières North America; LeAnne Fox, Medical Officer and Team Lead on NTDs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); Kristy Murray, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the National School of Tropical Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine and Mark Rosenberg, President and CEO of the Task Force for Global Health.

The panelists first discussed the global burden of neglected tropical diseases. Moderator Karen Goraleski started the afternoon by pointing out that “global health is America’s health,” and that sentiment was echoed throughout. NTDs all over the world were mentioned from sleeping sickness in remote villages of Africa to onchocerciasis in Columbia to dengue fever and West Nile in Texas and Florida. These diseases not only impact the health of affected individuals, but ultimately hamper economic development. Specifically, Dr. Fox asked how “an individual with an enormous leg could reach their earning potential?’ or how could a child with a helminth infection learn or focus as well in school?”

Unfortunately, the answer is that individuals affected by these debilitating diseases cannot reach their full potential. In the face of these extreme health and economic burdens, all panelists highlighted the importance of research in global efforts to combat NTDs. It is crucial to develop new drugs, diagnostics and vaccines to combat these diseases. Sufficient tools simply do not exist for many NTDs and many available tools are extremely difficult or impractical for use in low-resource settings. When reflecting on his on-the-ground work in Africa, Dr. Cruz said that he “can clearly see the need for new diagnostics and treatment strategies – there is so much more to be done in screening and care for neglected patients.”

Although these types of research projects have the potential to save millions of lives, funding is often insufficient. Because NTDs disproportionately affect people in poverty, there is limited market demand for new tools and thus, the private sector typically has little incentive for investment. Unfortunately, public sources of funding are also scarce and recent sequestration cuts have jeopardized NTD work at NIH, CDC and DoD. However, Ms. Cohen pointed out that new models of public-private collaboration are extremely promising. She stressed the importance of a mix of public and private funding, particularly in the field of drug development, where publicly funded research is an excellent base, but requires private sector involvement for mass production of drugs. She noted that factors such as motivated CEOs, emerging markets and corporate social responsibility efforts have begun to push the private sector to be more involved in the fight against NTDs.

The final theme that emerged from the panel centered around Dr. Rosenberg’s remark that “compassion is crucial in the fight against NTDs. Even if there is no threat of these diseases to us in the U.S., they affect over one billion people around the world and we should care because it’s about equity and justice.” Research!America’s polling supports that Americans are a generous group and support global health. Ms. Goraleski wrapped up by saying that we must harness this sentiment and intent, starting with everyone in attendance. If we can work together to raise awareness of NTDs and advocate for more funding to advance NTD research, one day we can have the tools necessary to eliminate these diseases.

Morgan McCloskey, global health intern

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Audience

 

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Continued discussion after panel

 

We Need Cures, Not Cuts. A pre-SOTU conversation about sequestration’s impact to medical research

Join Research!America and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network for a pre-SOTU Twitter chat on Monday, February 11, 1 to 2 p.m. ET. Visit @ResearchAmerica and @ACSCAN on Twitter to follow Research!America President Mary Woolley and ACSCAN President Chris Hansen as they discuss important facts about sequestration and answer questions from participants. Use the hashtag #curesnotcuts in your tweets to join the conversation.

Importance of Affordable Diagnostics

An article in the most recent issue of The Scientist highlighted the importance of affordable diagnostics for global health. Although scientific advances have improved treatment options for many global diseases, a lack of effective, low-cost diagnostics hinders the health of many in the developing world. For example, medicines to treat HIV and tuberculosis have been life-saving for many individuals, but they can cause liver damage and patients on these medications must be monitored. However, the primary test for liver damage requires expensive equipment that is simply not available in low-income countries. To solve this problem, a Massachusetts biotech company, Diagnostics For All, developed a 10 cent paper-based test that can diagnose liver damage with a single drop of blood.

Other U.S.-based companies are working on similar low-cost diagnostics. In Texas, Global BioDiagnostics Corp is developing a more effective test for tuberculosis that will cost just $5. Both of these projects are excellent models for incorporating the idea of access into the research process and designing products that can actually be utilized in low-resource settings. However, there is often not enough money for companies to develop these kinds of products. In fact, a principal investigator at PATH says that “the problem [with low-cost diagnostics] is almost always funding.” Therefore, it is crucial to increase funding for affordable diagnostics. Not only would increased investment support these U.S.-based companies, but the end products could truly transform health care in the developing world.

Update: Another article, published in The Scientist on January 10, also addresses the urgent need for better diagnostics in resource-limited countries. In addition to making diagnostics more affordable, truly successful new diagnostics must also be “sensitive, specific, user-friendly, rapid, equipment-free and deliverable” and these considerations must be built into the R&D process. Overcoming these research challenges hinges not only on additional funding, but collaboration between research companies, the healthcare industry and local governments. Several Product Development Partnerships (PDPs) are leading the charge in these kinds of innovative collaborations. For example, the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND), a PDP based in Geneva, Switzerland, is working with manufacturers, health organizations and ministries of health and developing diagnostics from the initial design to the operational research phase to determine the diagnostic’s efficacy in a low resource setting. The importance of these kinds of new tests, which will result in more appropriate treatment plans that can save lives and money, cannot be overlooked.

-Morgan McCloskey, global health intern

Authors of Groundbreaking Study on Reducing Infant Mortality with Electronic Health Records Receive the 2012 Garfield Economic Impact Award

Alexandria, VA –November 15, 2012–The authors of a landmark study on the use of electronic medical records (EMRs) to reduce infant mortality will receive the 2012 Garfield Economic Impact Award. Amalia R. Miller, PhD, and Catherine E. Tucker, PhD, are being honored for their paper, “Can Health Care Information Technology Save Babies?” The award, presented by Research!America, recognizes economists whose work contributes to our understanding of the ways in which medical and health research – and new, research-based technologies and treatments – impact the economy. The award is supported by a grant from Merck & Co., Inc.

The study, published in Journal of Political Economy, provides solid evidence that creating an electronic rather than a paper interface between patient information and health care providers reduces neonatal mortality. They further demonstrated that the cost of EMRs used for this purpose is minimal when measured against the societal benefits.

“The research that underlies increasingly sophisticated health IT, including electronic medical records, is an important facet of research for health. We applaud Drs. Miller and Tucker for demonstrating in such concrete terms the value of research-based EMRs in meeting a crucial societal goal,” said Mary Woolley, president and CEO, Research!America. “Further, by demonstrating the modest cost of the use of the technology per life saved, they have made a strong economic case for investing in the research to develop similar health care tools.”

The findings are particularly important given that the U.S. has struggled for years to reduce infant mortality rates, according to the paper. Each year, 18,000 babies die in the United States within their first 28 days of life. According to the authors, this high rate of neonatal mortality means that the United States is ranked 43rd in the world and lags behind 24 of the 27 members of the European Union.

“Evaluating the cost effectiveness of medical innovation in actual practice has been challenging,” said Mark McClellan, MD, PhD, director, Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform, Brookings Institution, and a Research!America Board member. “This important research uses creative methods to overcome the challenges and provide important new evidence on cost effectiveness of electronic medical records.”

Using a 12-year county-level panel, the authors found that EMRs reduced neonatal mortality by 16 deaths per 100,000 live births. The authors credit this decrease to the fact that EMRs facilitate fast and accurate access to patient records, which improves diagnosis and patient monitoring.

Miller and Tucker will be honored at a reception at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) building in Washington, DC, on Thursday, November 15, 2012. The reception is preceded by a post-election panel discussion about the outlook for medical research and innovation.

Research!America is the nation’s largest nonprofit public education and advocacy alliance working to make research to improve health a higher national priority. Founded in 1989, Research!America is supported by member organizations that represent the voices of 125 million Americans. Visit www.researchamerica.org.

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