Tag Archives: autism

Budget sequestration could soon cost us in lives

An excerpt of an op-ed by Robert I. Field, PhD, JD, MPH, professor of the Earle Mack School of Law & Drexel School of Public Health published in Philly.com.

Robert I. Field

Robert I. Field, PhD, JD, MPH

What do we get when Congress cuts federal spending across-the-board? Does it bring lower taxes, smaller deficits, and less bureaucracy?

How about worse health care, less medical innovation, and lost lives?

The budget sequester that Congress enacted in 2011 began to take effect this year with spending cuts for most federal programs. So far, the majority of Americans have seen little change. Some may even applaud the idea of forcing the federal government to make due with less.

But the sequester is about to exert an especially sinister effect that lies just outside of public view. It could cripple medical research.

The National Institutes of Health is the largest single source of biomedical research funding in the world. It supports work at most universities in the United States and at many around the world.

That’s not just important to the physicians and researchers who work at those institutions. It’s vitally important to everyone. NIH funding stands behind the development of almost every major drug that has emerged over the past 50 years. You can see the impact of this agency every time you open your medicine cabinet. It has also brought us countless medical devices and procedures. And led to 83 Nobel prizes. Continue reading →

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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: 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: Reading between the Lines and then Taking Action

Dear Research Advocate,

As you know, the Republican Party Platform was unveiled Tuesday during the convention in Tampa. There are direct references to medical and health research and other statements that — if not explicit — definitely imply the need for such research. We can draw from both to enhance our advocacy efforts.

The following exemplifies the direct and indirect nature of the platform’s embrace of medical and health research:

“We support federal investment in health care delivery systems and solutions creating innovative means to provide greater, more cost-effective access to high quality health care. We also support federal investment in basic and applied biomedical research, especially the neuroscience research that may hold great potential for dealing with diseases and disorders such as autism, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. If we are to make significant headway against breast and prostate cancer, diabetes and other killers, research must consider the special needs of formerly neglected groups.”

The platform explicitly supports federal funding for basic and applied medical research, and, if I am interpreting the text correctly, acknowledges the need to address health disparities as part of the nation’s research agenda. This statement also implies the need for health services research (HSR) to devise “solutions” that improve health care access, cost-effectiveness and quality. Unfortunately the House Labor-H appropriations bill precludes NIH funding for health economics research — a key subset of HSR — and virtually zeroes out the budget of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the main funder of HSR. The platform provides advocates fresh talking points as final appropriations decisions are made later this year.

The Republican platform also states: “Even expensive prevention is preferable to more costly treatment later on.” While the rest of the statement focuses on personal responsibility, research plays an undeniable role in effective prevention. Vaccines, the nicotine patch, successful drug and alcohol addiction treatment programs … all are grounded in research. Advocates can segue directly from the platform to the importance of prevention research at CDC and other agencies … and we should. Three other sections of the platform are noteworthy. It goes hard on the FDA, asserting that it needs significant reform. The platform does not mention funding, but there is a logical connection here. Patient groups, scientists, industry and FDA leaders themselves are all committed to strengthening the agency and are working hard to accomplish just that. Support for FDA reform cannot logically be decoupled from support for FDA funding, a point that must not get lost in the reform debate.

Second, the platform advocates making the R&D tax credit permanent. Bravo!  We should increase and make other improvements to the credit as well.

Finally, the platform opposes embryonic stem cell research. Not a surprise, but a disappointment.  Proponents must keep fighting this battle, drawing strength from the recent court victory in which President Obama’s executive order was once again upheld.

There is much to applaud in the Republican platform when it comes to federal support for both medical and health research. Let’s take that and run with it. In an article that appeared this week in Forbes, John Zogby discusses the results of our recent national poll. He focuses on the exceptional level of agreement between different demographic and ideological subsets of the American population on issues related to health and medical research. We see that reality reflected in many of the planks in the Republican platform. Indeed most of the results from our poll will not surprise you (except, perhaps, the fact that a majority of Americans of all stripes would pay a dollar more per week in taxes if they knew it was going toward medical research), but it’s a fact that most policy makers have not embraced medical progress as a goal worthy of mentioning in campaign speeches or on their campaign websites. Platforms aside, this gives Americans no basis by which to evaluate whether individual candidates will champion or chop research funding and no assurance that they will take medical innovation into account when evaluating policy decisions that could stimulate or stifle it. Your Candidates-Your Health is an important way that candidates can make their opinions known about medical and health research. Advocates can do their part by attending town halls, visiting campaign offices, writing op-eds and letters to the editor, and using these polling results to convince candidates that promoting medical progress should be one of their core missions.

We have our work cut out for us, but we will succeed if we do more than parse the rhetoric — we have to take action!

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley