A Weekly Advocacy Message From Mary Woolley: Does expert advice count anymore?
Dear Research Advocate:
Earlier this week, the House passed an inadequate proposal for $622.1 million in emergency Zika funding, falling far short of the bipartisan Senate proposal of $1.1 billion passed this week, not to mention the President’s request of $1.9 billion. Appropriations subcommittee Chairman Cole (R-OK-04) has stated that subsequent Zika funding will come in the next appropriations cycle, but public health experts tell us we cannot wait. (This is especially true since the pattern of the last many years is for appropriations to go undetermined until almost calendar year end.) Summer months are approaching and half the continental U.S. is home to potential disease-carrying vectors; time is of the essence. This is a public health emergency. Call your representatives in Congress and let them know that we don’t have time for inaction or inadequate action. Ask everyone in your network to do the same!
Respected former legislators -- themselves medical experts -- called out Congressional inaction on another timely initiative in a Wall Street Journal op-ed this week. Dr. Bill Frist, former Senate majority leader and cardiothoracic surgeon, and Dr. Tom Coburn, former Senator and obstetrician, called a halt to the foot-dragging holding up the Innovations Initiative in the Senate, saying, “Any political impediments to this should be overcome immediately…it’s time for a Senate vote.” We’re so close now; this is the time for all of us who care about taking the Cures/ Innovations effort to the finish line to go all out. Please send a message to your Senator today!
A bedrock strategy for the Cures/Innovations effort is that of coupling new policies with supplemental resources to jumpstart progress. On Tuesday, members of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee acted in just this spirit, taking welcome action as they passed a spending bill that begins to close the gap between the responsibilities FDA shoulders and the budget the agency needs to carry out those responsibilities. Under their bill, FDA would receive $42 million more than in FY16 -- $29 million more than the Administration’s FY17 request, and $18 million more than the House bill. This increase would still leave a gap, but a smaller one. It is a piece of good news, and yet more evidence that advocacy works.
Last week the White House announced the official launch of the National Microbiome Initiative, an exciting, cutting-edge project that seeks to expand our knowledge of the world around (and inside) us. This collaborative, which brings together five federal agencies and more than 100 research institutes, philanthropies and industry partners (including an impressive number of Research!America members), is emblematic of the power of inter- and cross-sector partnerships. Watch this space for more from us on the microbiome.