A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Sequestration, ROI and how to talk about Supreme Court Ruling

Dear Research Advocate,

Today, the Energy and Commerce Committee, which holds authorizing (non-funding) jurisdiction over NIH, held a hearing with Dr. Francis Collins. He conveyed the tremendous progress NIH has made in fighting a variety of diseases while laying the groundwork for innovations that lead to the creation of new jobs and industries. The hearing covered a variety of health topics, including pancreatic cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes. Members raised concerns about NIH funding levels and the impact of sequester, in response to which Dr. Collins expressed serious concern about grant success rates, the future of young researchers and our nation’s competitiveness. Click here for opening statements and Dr. Collins’ testimony.

For those who opened The Washington Post today, you saw an insightful and timely op-ed by Fareed Zakaria: “How government funding of science rewards U.S. taxpayers.” He cites our booming biotechnology industry and the government investment in the Human Genome Project that ultimately made this possible. The message is that government investments in research can pay off with tremendous benefits for our health and our economy. This is an important ROI message that can help counter the threat of sequestration. Please do your part to promote this op-ed using your networks and social media – we need to spread this message far and wide! On a related note, news of the impact of sequestration on non-defense spending, including funding for cancer research, is finally gaining traction and you can read about it in today’s New York Times.

As you know, the Supreme Court is expected to make public their decision on the fate of health care reform early next week. Regardless of the outcome, the debate over health care reform underscores the priority Americans assign to their health and that of their loved ones. Our challenge as advocates is to constantly link research to health and make them, together, unassailable American priorities. During a Research!America members’ conference call in early July, we will talk more about driving this point home, but I encourage you not to wait — take the opportunity of the discussion around the Supreme Court ruling to talk about research! The future of U.S. research to improve health may hinge on a sea change in public awareness, and our role is to bring that change about.

A quick update on CDC and AHRQ funding — the news isn’t particularly good. The Senate recommended flat-funding for CDC and AHRQ received a slight cut from fiscal year 2012 levels. The House has yet to release its recommendations, and we are still far from having final budget numbers for these agencies. What we do know is that inadequate funding compromises some key building blocks of a safe society. We can’t afford that.

Research!America Board member and former NIH Director Dr. Elias Zerhouni was featured in a recent article in Forbes underscoring the pivotal role that innovative thinking, coupled with a willingness to explore new research paradigms, plays in driving medical science forward. The article also makes reference to the fundamental role NIH plays in laying the groundwork for marketable medical discoveries. It’s a reminder that federal funding for NIH, as well as federal policies that incentivize private sector investment, are both of paramount importance to our nation’s future.


Mary Woolley

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