Tag Archives: social sciences research

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

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

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

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

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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