A weekly advocacy message from Mary Woolley: Deadline extended once again

Mary Woolley

Dear Research Advocate,

The current continuing resolution (CR) expires tomorrow. Congress has yet to reach agreement on FY16 appropriations, so they will buy more time to hammer out a funding package by passing another CR lasting til midnight Wednesday, December 16.  The major sticking points at this moment are additional policy riders attached to the funding omnibus, spanning the spectrum from immigration and refugees to labor and environmental issues.

As it looks right now, some research-related budgets stand to gain, while others face a less positive fate. There’s more on NIH in my interview with The Atlantic, and we continue to press for increases for CDC, FDA, AHRQ and NSF.  Social, behavioral, and economic (SBE) research in particular are at high risk. Two excellent opinion pieces this week in the Kansas City Star and in The Tennessean, by Donna Ginther and Mario Crucini, respectively, highlight the dangerous repercussions of targeted cuts to SBE research. As advocates we must stand at the ready to respond to these and other evolving threats. Please join Drs. Ginther and Crucini in writing an op-ed or LTE to your local paper - the time is now!

Also outstanding on the congressional to-do list is the tax extenders package. The bill, originally aimed at making expired tax breaks permanent, has not yet obtained bipartisan consensus. A backup two year extension proposal, including a two year suspension of the medical device tax, was introduced earlier this week. Lawmakers may agree to attach the tax legislation to the FY16 omnibus for passage, a move that some Democrats oppose.

USA Today and Cigna co-hosted a forum this week to highlight another threat - the costs of underfunding public health. Research!America board member and American Public Health Association Executive Director Dr. Georges Benjamin spoke of how preparedness money devoted to public health after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 --  including building infrastructure upgrades in health departments that still used rotary phones at the time -- dissipated in later years. As is too often the case when it comes to protecting the public’s health, once the immediate threat is addressed, attention and support moves elsewhere and we (wrongly) think we have solved a problem.  Assuring the health of the public is a massive undertaking, akin to ensuring the nation’s defense, but we spend only decimal dust on public health in comparison. 
 
Indeed, there was startling news from a congressional hearing this week on drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB), highlighting the mass casualties caused by TB globally, over 4,000 deaths per day. Dr. Eric Goosby, U.N. Special Envoy on Tuberculosis, told the committee TB is now the most deadly infectious disease in the world, surpassing HIV/AIDS according to the World Health Organization’s 2015 Global Tuberculosis Report released earlier this year. CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden made it clear to the Committee that the ongoing budget debates have tangible impact on the agency’s work: “Every day that we don’t have a budget, we can’t start the programs that can protect Americans better.” See our newly updated TB fact sheet for more information.

Also in this busy week, the critical role of nursing and nursing research were highlighted at a Future of Nursing program hosted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and AARP, featuring Research!America board member and National Academy of Medicine (NAM) president Dr. Victor Dzau. The newly released report assesses progress over the last five years in transforming the nursing profession to meet heightened demands in healthcare.

 

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If concerted, long-term investments in research are not made, America will lose an entire generation of young scientists.
Brenda Canine, PhD; McLaughlin Research Institute, Montana