Tag Archives: health research

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Pope Francis is the Man of the Year; do you know what the Word of the Year is?

Dear Research Advocate:

Here’s a holiday surprise! I am not referring to the budget deal, but to the fact that Merriam-Webster’s 2013 word of the year — determined via the greatest increase in online searches — is “science.” I find this to be refreshing news, providing evidence that interest in science is growing, which in turn is an indication of substantial room for researchers and research advocates to contribute to public understanding and support of science. We appear to have an opportunity ready for the taking to overcome the “invisibility” problem that contributes to holding decision makers back from assigning a higher priority to science.

And speaking of those decision makers, we have a budget deal! While modest at best, it is a starting point for bipartisanship in serving the public’s interest. We can build on this foundation. Please add your voice, as funding is being determined by appropriators. Click here to urge your Members of Congress to support robust funding for NIH, NSF, FDA, CDC and AHRQ. This week, we’ve released our annual Health R&D Investment report, which could provide new context for your messages. The report shows some gains in philanthropy, industry, and voluntary health association support for research but notes woefully inadequate federal funding, especially given what’s at stake for our health and our economy. Continue reading →

Research!America president and CEO Mary Woolley on Senate Passage of Budget Agreement

December 18, 2013

“Senate passage of the budget agreement brings us closer to restoring some of the funding lost under sequestration for medical and health research but this is a band-aid approach to solving our fiscal woes.  Our nation’s research ecosystem has been a dealt a severe blow and will need robust funding to recover from steep budget cuts that slowed medical progress.  We urge appropriators to adequately fund the National Institutes of Health and other agencies that advance scientific discovery and innovation to confront the many deadly and disabling diseases impacting our nation’s health and economy.”

Health R&D Spending Moves Slowly Upward, Driven by Industry, Philanthropy and Voluntary Health Associations

Federal R&D Funding Remains “Woefully Inadequate” to Address Health Threats and Global Competitiveness

Highlights:

  • Overall health R&D spending in the U.S. increased by $4.3 billion (3.5%).
  • Industry, philanthropy and voluntary associations led gains in R&D spending.
  • Federal R&D spending rose 2.2% but a considerable amount is the result of agency reorganization and reclassification.

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—December 17, 2013After declining in FY10-11, health-related research and development (R&D) spending in the U.S. increased by $4.3 billion (3.5%) in FY11-12, according to Truth and Consequences: Health R&D Spending in the U.S. (FY11-12), the 10th edition from Research!America highlighting estimates of U.S. investments. This spending increase was largely driven by industry, philanthropy and voluntary health associations as well as changes in the classification of spending within a few federal agencies. For the full report, click here.

“Industry, philanthropic and voluntary health association R&D spending increases offer a glimmer of hope in this dark era for medical research,” said Research!America’s chair, former Congressman John E. Porter. “Stagnant federal investments jeopardize our nation’s ability to advance medical progress and fuel private sector innovation, a catalyst for job creation and economic recovery.” Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: “It always seems impossible until it’s done”– Nelson Mandela

Dear Research Advocate:

As I’m sure you’ve heard, the Joint Budget Committee released a two-year budget agreement Tuesday night. The package involves $63 billion in partial sequestration relief over two years, offset by fees (not taxes!) and a wide variety of cost-sharing arrangements, AKA “pay fors.” While it remains unclear whether user fees will be subjected to any sequester in 2014 and 2015, the already-sequestered FDA user fees are locked up and cannot be used to accelerate medical advances. This is a missed opportunity that patients can’t afford. While not a perfect deal in many respects, the House is expected to approve the Murray-Ryan budget deal within moments, and the Senate is expected to pass it next week.

For the advocacy community, the overall budget number is important, but the appropriations process that follows is crucial. The funding levels for NIH, CDC and AHRQ depend on the funding allocated to the Labor-H subcommittee and the FDA on the Agricultural subcommittee. Since dealmakers have not dealt with tax or entitlement reform, this will involve robbing Peter to pay Paul, and it won’t be pretty. Decisions will be made soon, as Congress is working against a January 15 deadline. Please consider contacting your Members of Congress to urge them to weigh in on how funding is allocated to appropriators and, in short order, allocated by appropriators — ask them to maximize funding for NIH, CDC, AHRQ, FDA and NSF. A report released this week by United for Medical Research, featuring a collection of stories about the negative impact that sequestration has had on NIH as well as the impact on individual research laboratories, can help you make the case. Continue reading →

Tell Congress to Protect Medical and Health Research

To protect medical and health research, policy makers must eliminate sequestration. This remains Research!America’s top-line message, because it is sequestration that poses the greatest threat to all discretionary funding, including medical and health research conducted by NIH, CDC, FDA, NSF, AHRQ, DOD … and the list goes on. Advocates for medical and health research have made a huge impact over the years on funding and policies supportive of medical and health research, including playing a key role in reducing sequestration in 2013. We are asking you to weigh in again to help address sequestration in FY14 and FY15.

On Wednesday, the co-chairs of the committee charged with establishing an overall budget number for FY14 struck a deal that would establish this top-line number for both FY14 and FY15. Under this agreement, the sequestration cuts would be reduced by $50-$60 billion over the two-year period (a reduction of approximately 30% each year). While this modest reduction is less than hoped for, it does signal progress in the fight against sequestration. The task now is to assure this or a better deal passes both the House and Senate by December 13.

Please contact your representatives in Congress and urge them to vote in favor of a significant reduction in sequestration for FY14 and FY15 as a down payment on eliminating sequestration.

Take action now.

Majority of Americans Believe Another Government Shutdown Likely in Coming Months; Last One Harmful to Medical Research

New National Poll Reveals Many Respondents Predict China will Surpass U.S.
in Science and Innovation by 2020

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—December 3, 2013—Nearly two-thirds (65%) of Americans say it’s likely there will be another government shutdown in the months ahead as Congress continues to debate deficit and budget issues, according to a new national public opinion poll commissioned by Research!America and the American Society of Hematology. This sentiment is shared across party affiliations: Democrats (66%), Republicans (65%) and Independents (65%). There is also consensus across party lines that government dysfunction has consequences. A majority of Americans (57%) say the shutdown in October caused significant harm to many government-funded programs including medical research, defense and education. Democrats (68%) and about half of Republicans (49%) and Independents (51%) agree.

On the topic of sequestration, a plurality (44%) says Congress must tackle tax and entitlement reform to reduce the deficit instead of continuing the 10 years of across-the-board cuts; another 16% say sequestration is not the right way to reduce the deficit. Less than a quarter (23%) believe the across-the-board cuts are a way of ensuring that many government programs share the pain, and 17% say they’re not sure. In general, 62% of Americans say they’re concerned about the long-term effects of sequestration on advances in health care such as the development of new drugs and other treatments.

“Our poll demonstrates uneasiness among many Americans about the ramifications of deep spending cuts to programs that are critical to our health and well-being,” said Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research!America. “Americans want Congress to reach a budget deal that protects medical and health research, at least in part because of concern that our nation is at risk of losing our global leadership position in science and innovation.” Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: No Longer the Envy of the World (Part 2)

Dear Research Advocate:

Yesterday I learned that China is offering to pay full freight for students from developing countries who are interested in receiving their university degree in China. China is also, as you know, investing hand over fist in research and development, life science research in particular. Juxtapose China’s science, STEM education and science-diplomacy policies with U.S.policies: we don’t seem to have them!  And contrast their funding strategy with ours: we’re disinvesting while they’re planning to outspend us within the next five years.

So why does it matter where science is pursued? Why does it matter if the U.S. focuses on other priorities for awhile or forever, given the way we’re going? You can fill in the answer as easily as I can. We need jobs; innovation produces them. We need to cut the deficit; tackling chronic disease is imperative to that goal, as is a healthy industrial base — and without innovation, neither is possible. And so on and so on.

The question is how to wake up policy makers to the havoc they are wreaking on our nation. As regards to the big picture, there is a glimmer of hope in that a group of Republican lawmakers have sent a letter to the Budget Conference Committee asserting the need for a return to an actual appropriations process so that government funding will once again reflect American priorities. Consequence-blind, across-the-board cuts (aka sequestration) are not the only threat to research, but they are the biggest. Appropriating, rather than bickering, is a good first step toward prioritizing R&D funding. A second letter, initiated by Research!America ‘s 2013 Whitehead awardees Senators Bob Casey and Richard Burr, and signed by 33 Members representing both sides of the aisle, urges the Conference Committee to assign NIH funding the priority it deserves.

Our goal is that 100 Senators would sign such a letter and that it would cover much more than NIH funding! Realizing such a goal for all members of Congress is what motivates us in our election year voter education work. We will soon launch our 2014 national voter education initiative with inside- and outside-the-Beltway strategies designed to ensure that both voters and candidates know that Americans’ way of life depends on research and development, which in turn depends upon a governing process that works. The people who report to Americans should do right by them, putting research and innovation to work to find the solutions to the nation’s ills; dismantling our innovation infrastructure and discouraging the talented women and men who make use of it is taking us in the wrong direction as a nation.

Thanksgiving is approaching, and one of the many reasons to give thanks is that I am blessed to partner with visionaries with the drive, dedication and talent to reverse the decline in U.S. science. Research champion Paul Rogers said, “Without research, there is no hope.” You are literally keeping hope alive, and for that I am so grateful.

Grateful and asking for your partnership once again. Please add your voice to the growing chorus promoting Public Health Thank You Day (Monday, November 25th) and heeding its message. The York (PA) City Bureau of Health director, Barbara Kovacs, was outspoken in her letter to the editor of the York Daily Record honoring the unwavering efforts of public health professionals to protect our nation every day. The Beaufort County (NC) Health director, James A. Madson, weighed in with his letter to the editor as well. The Vanderburgh County (IN) Health Department will be hosting a Health Fair to provide free screenings for all residents. Please follow their lead and host an event — large or small, it will matter — or write an LTE, press release or social media post. Our online toolkit will help you craft your Public Health Thank You Day messages. And speaking of critical public health work: If you weren’t able to join last week’s event surrounding Chagas disease research and development, check out PAHO’s full video coverage of it here. Chagas isn’t some remote threat to our nation; it’s one of many emerging challenges that we rely on our public health infrastructure, as well as our talented scientific community, to confront and defeat.  We can’t take the public’s health for granted for another day.

We’re taking a few days off next week to spend with family. I’ll be in touch again the first Thursday of December. A Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours,

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

The urgent need to address oral health in the US

By Foti Panagakos, DMD, PhD, global director of scientific affairs at Colgate-Palmolive

Panagakos_FotiOral health has been demonstrated to be associated with, and an important influencer of, overall health.  The role of prevention is critical to reducing, and eventually eliminating what the WHO has deemed an epidemic, caries or cavities in teeth.  This is the most prevalent disease among children, with more than 60% of 5 year olds having at least one cavity.  In addition, research over the last 25 years has shown that in patients who have a chronic disease, such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease, and concomitant serious gum or periodontal disease, the treatment of the oral disease will improve the control and management of the systemic chronic disease.

While these findings have stimulated action among the medical and dental communities to work collaboratively in identifying and treating oral disease in these very vulnerable patients, it is the fact that the oral disease is preventable in the first place which should take precedence in our management of this problem.  Developing and implementing preventative technologies is the solution to addressing both of these issues. Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Moving from the Envy of the World to the Puzzle of the World

Dear Research Advocate:

NIH Director Francis Collins was recently interviewed for a Wall Street Journal article that would reinvigorate even the weariest research advocate. Dr. Collins captured the legacy and unprecedented potential of research for health, as well as the counterintuitive neglect of it, in a truly compelling manner. Dr. Collins made similarly captivating comments yesterday at the Washington Ideas Forum: “We’re going from the envy of the world,” he said, “to the puzzle of the world. Other nations are mystified that we have stopped following our own playbook — the one they are using now to drive their economy and improve health and quality of life for their own populations.”

Of course they’re mystified. Policy makers are setting Americans up for needless suffering and America up for decline. It’s past time to follow the lead of, for example, the Australian government; despite battling austerity, it has announced an increase in funding for the Australian Research Council’s research grants. And Australia is not alone — China is now on track to overtake U.S. spending (actual spending and as a percentage of GDP) within five years. Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Winning Hearts and Minds and Votes

Dear Research Advocate:

It has been a week since the Budget Conference Committee’s first meeting. The next public meeting is scheduled for November 13. Staffs are at work, and various Members are talking. There are no concrete signs of progress. What I keep coming back to is the failure of our nation’s decision makers to recognize and act on the reality that the priorities of Americans are reflected in both discretionary and entitlement programs. The persistence of sequestration underscores Congress’ inability to make decisions and choose priorities. The sequestration era has run its course, dealing Congress record lows in terms of public support; it’s past time to end the era and move on.

Recently I shared my letter to the Budget Conference Committee; it argued for an end to sequestration, pointing out the importance of investing in medical research as a pragmatic strategy for decreasing the national debt and deficit. This week I followed up with a letter on the importance of health research, pointing out how it helps identify smart medical innovation and optimal health care financing and delivery. The letter showcases the essential role of health economics, health services, public health, behavioral and social science research in assuring quality medical innovation and smart health care delivery. We are concerned that if the research stakeholder community at large does not speak out for this critical research, it will be compromised or even defunded altogether. Please join us in raising your voice. Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Forty-three days and counting

Dear Research Advocate:

Yesterday, the Budget Conference Committee, chaired by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI-01), met for the first time. The committee only has until December 13 to accomplish its task of producing at least a short-term budget. Expectations are modest considering the short timeline, the House and Senate recess schedules, and the number of issues declared “off the table.” There is some talk of replacing sequestration, at least for the remainder of FY14, with selected cuts. In order to assure that research is not cut and in fact is prioritized for an increase, many stakeholders must speak up. It is essential that our issue is discussed as a priority every day in this 43-day countdown — in the media, in hometown districts, by staffers and by our elected officials. Please be sure to speak out. Urge your Members of Congress to advocate on your behalf — and on behalf of all who are depending on research for health — to their colleagues on the Budget Conference Committee.

Sequestration really must go! Useful facts to bolster our case about how sequestration is stalling scientific R&D in this country — to the detriment of business and consumers alike — is now at the ready. Columnist Gerald F. Seib of The Wall Street Journal points to many consumer products and their components that have origins in federally supported basic research, adding billions of dollars to our economy over the decades. And the Science Coalition has released a new report Sparking Economic Growth 2.0 highlighting 100 companies whose beginnings were aided by federally funded university research. Think of Google’s roots in NSF funding and Genentech’s in NIH, for just two prominent examples. The report describes the role these research-based companies play in bringing transformative innovations to market, creating jobs and contributing to economic growth. It’s all too easy to forget, once a business is thriving, how taxpayer funding helped them get its start. Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Moneyball

Dear Research Advocate:

Just in time for the World Series, a national campaign to make evidence-based government spending decisions has been announced. Moneyball for Government, a project of Results for America, advocates prioritizing limited taxpayer dollars by investing strategically in what works, eschewing “gut level” instinct for metrics-driven decision-making. Stakeholders in medical and health research sometimes have difficulty measuring or agreeing on metrics that matter; it’s time to work through this challenge so that when stakeholders talk about research accountability — in the current budget conversations or in any context — we can speak with one metric-driven voice to emphasize the returns on research investment in both lives and money saved.

Research!America is working to assure our message is in the forefront of the bipartisan Budget Conference Committee’s deliberations. We have written to the committee expressing the importance of investing in medical and health research to address the national debt and deficit. We urge the committee to eliminate the sequester; it continues to take a toll on our economy and our society, in part by eroding our capacity to innovate in the medical and health fields. Please join us in reaching out to your representatives to share the importance of prioritizing investments in research. Continue reading →

Research!America Honors Leaders in Medical and Health Research Advocacy

Glenn Close, Dr. Leroy Hood, Dr. Reed Tuckson, Kathy Giusti and the Progeria Research Foundation to Receive 2014 Research!America Advocacy Awards

ALEXANDRIA, Va.-October 22, 2013-Research!America’s 18th annual Advocacy Awards will honor extraordinary advocates of medical and health research who are distinguished in their commitment to advancing medicine and health. The event will take place on Wednesday, March 12, 2014, at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, DC, as a part of Research!America’s 25th anniversary commemoration.

The 2014 Advocacy Award winners are actress Glenn Close and her family; Leroy Hood, MD, PhD, president, Institute for Systems Biology; Kathy Guisti, founder and CEO of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF); Reed Tuckson, MD, managing director, Tuckson Health Connections; and The Progeria Research Foundation (PRF). The winner of the Edwin C. Whitehead Award for Medical Research Advocacy will be named by Research!America’s Board of Directors later this year.

“This year’s honorees have transformed the lives of many individuals across the country through their remarkable achievements and advocacy for medical and health research,” said Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research!America. “Their unwavering dedication is helping to elevate research in the national conversation and inspire a new generation of advocates.” Continue reading →

Research Matters Communications Workshop for Early-Career Scientists: October 9, 2013

Research!America’s science communications event, “Research Matters Communications Workshop: Promoting Basic Research in a New Age of Communications: Challenges and Opportunities,” was held October 9 at the Marvin Center on the campus of the George Washington University in Washington, DC.

Leo Chalupa, PhDGWU’s vice president for research, Leo Chalupa, PhD (pictured at right), opened the day with remarks that implored the nearly 100 young scientists in attendance to think about their families when they communicate.

“Act like your Aunt Harriet is in the audience,” Chalupa said; his welcoming remarks indeed laid the groundwork for the workshop, as Aunt Harriet would be referenced frequently throughout the morning.

Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley followed with an introduction of the plenary speaker; Woolley also hit on a theme that is especially relevant this week. She recalled the story of 2000 Nobel Prize winner Paul Greengard, PhD and his sister, Chris Chase. In an op-ed in The New York Times a few days after Greengard’s win, Chase lamented that she never fully understood the research her brother had undertaken. Upon winning, however, she read news accounts that explained his work as determining how brain cells communicate; this work could one day impact Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

“I’m thrilled he won,” Chase wrote, and Woolley recounted. “Now I know what he does.”

That segued into the plenary session from Christie Nicholson, a lecturer at the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University. Nicholson (pictured below) began the session by reminding the audience that effective communication isn’t just necessary when dealing with the public; because science has become so specialized, researchers sometimes can’t understand what their own colleagues are saying.

Christie Nicholson

Nicholson explained that it’s important to tell a story. But before you can begin to craft a story, she said it’s critical to not only understand the goal you’re trying to achieve, but also to understand your audience. And to do that, one must know what the audience knows, what the audience cares about and what motivates them. Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Does Congress care if Nobel laureates of the future are put at risk?

Dear Research Advocate:

Like most Americans, we are alarmed by the ongoing government shutdown. Since the shutdown began, I have been in Georgia, Massachusetts and Ohio, speaking to business and academic leaders, state and local elected officials, philanthropic leaders, and working scientists. Everyone is outraged! Clearly, biomedical and health research — already compromised via sequestration — is not the only priority placed at risk by the impasse, but it is a critical one. From limiting access to clinical trials to undermining the ability to protect our food supply or investigate disease outbreaks, Americans are put at unnecessary risk when government employees are furloughed. We sent letters at the end of last week to Members of Congress and the president, urging action. We received responses from offices on both sides of the aisle: Many spoke passionately of their support for medical research; some hewed the party line; others lamented the budget impasse.

We are doing everything we can to keep the spotlight on the damage done to medical and health research when the government is shut down. When the public and its policy makers look back on the 2013 shutdown, we want them to remember which government functions most tellingly exemplified the cost — fiscal and societal — our nation incurs when the ability to function is derailed. Continue reading →