Mary Woolley's Weekly Letter: Spotlight on Public Health

Mary Woolley

Dear Research Advocate,

This Thanksgiving will be challenging – there is no way around it – but giving thanks right now is especially appropriate. Medical and public health personnel, academic and industry researchers, and a plethora of other COVID-19 responders have put the interests of the public ahead of their own, working in high-risk settings, 24-7, to navigate an end to this brutal pandemic. And end it, we will. To help speed the day, elected officials must do their part.

Unfinished Business: Unfortunately, we cannot yet thank federal policymakers for meeting two COVID-19-related imperatives: completing the FY21 appropriations process to unstick government functions basic to the health, safety, and wellbeing of Americans struggling to make it through the pandemic; and passing an urgently needed emergency spending package. 

Lawmakers are away from D.C. this week but there is activity behind the scenes. It appears policymakers on both sides of the aisle are keen to move forward with an FY21 omnibus appropriations package, but there is less progress on – and less optimism about reaching – a COVID-19 emergency spending agreement. On the FY21 piece, Congress may pass a one-week Continuing Resolution that pushes the funding deadline to about December 18, 2020. 

For many, many reasons, including the need to replenish COVID-19 depleted research funding for basic science and a broad range of diseases, our nation needs a COVID-19 emergency spending package now. Silence by advocates implies resignation. Being resigned to a weakened nation and stalled medical progress because of COVID-19 is not in any way acceptable. Use this editable email to ask your representatives in Congress to press for prompt action.

Reporting on Public Health Thank You Day 2020: To be sure, some Members of Congress have been speaking up for science and public health. Yesterday, many of them joined us and you for Public Health Thank You Day. 

  • The #PHTYD hashtag was put to use in almost 800 unique tweets from health institutions and leaders, generating 28.6 million impressions (and still counting!).
  • Federal officials participated: HHS Secretary Alex Azar; NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins; CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield; FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn; National Institute for Mental Health Director Dr. Josh Gordon; National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health Director Dr. Helene Langevin; Assistant Secretary of Health ADM Brett Giroir; Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams; and more.
  • Members of Congress who joined: From the Senate, Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Mike Crapo (R-ID), John Cornyn (R-TX), Roy Blunt (R-MO), John Boozman (R-AR), and James Lankford (R-OK); from the House, Representatives Betty McCollum (D-MN), Tom Cole (R-OK), Steve Stivers (R-OH), Julia Brownley (D-CA), Lois Frankel (D-FL), and Glenn Grothman (R-WI).
  • We are especially thankful to Representatives Rob Wittman (R-VA), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Jim McGovern (D-MA), and Mike Simpson (R-ID), co-chairs of the House Public Health Caucus, for introducing a resolution (H.Con.Res.124) recognizing PHTYD.
  • Governors stepped up as well. In Nebraska, Governor Pete Ricketts (R-NE) had the State Capitol illuminated in blue to honor the public health workforce. “Nebraska’s public health officials and healthcare workers continue to show heroic grit and determination in the face of the ongoing pandemic,” he said.
  • In West Virginia, Governor Jim Justice (R-WV) recognized Public Health Thank You Day during Monday’s COVID-19 press conference, and added: “it’s a day that should actually be in place every day.” Governors Laura Kelly (D-KS) and Tony Evers (D-WI) also took time to participate.

HURRY – Nominations Close Soon: Submit your nominations for the Outstanding Achievement in Public Health awards, new to our Advocacy Awards program. Mark your calendar for April 14, 2021, when we will gather online to 1) make up for time lost to COVID-19 by honoring our 2020 Awardees; and 2) recognize the Outstanding Achievement in Public Health awardees. The nomination process for these new awards is straightforward and your nominations are crucial. Act fast! The deadline is December 2, 2020.

Upcoming Alliance Member Meetings: Join our next alliance member meeting featuring Dr. Alan Peterson of the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio School of Medicine. Dr. Peterson will discuss recent PTSD research and provide insights into other mental health risks associated with COVID-19. Register today for the Thursday, December 3 event at 2 p.m. ET.

The following week, we’ll host Dr. Jon Lorsch, director of the NIH National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). Dr. Lorsch will discuss the Institute’s role in the RADx-rad initiative and COVID-19’s effect on NIGMS-funded basic research. Register here for the December 7, 2020 meeting (1:30 p.m. ET). For both events, email questions in advance: editor@researchamerica.org.

Check These Out and Spread the Word: The adage “don’t judge a book by its cover” is particularly applicable to basic research. In 2020, the Golden Goose Award will once again recognize federally funded research that may require a bit of explanation, but no equivocation: the societal returns on this research dwarf the original investment. This year, organizers at AAAS will highlight key examples from the global response to COVID-19. The event is on December 1, 2020, at 4 p.m. ET. Register by November 30.

Also on December 1, 2020: a World AIDS Day program will be held from 1-3 p.m. ET. Tune in for a discussion focusing on the connections between AIDS and COVID-19 and how to minimize the tragic consequences of that intersection.

This Thanksgiving may not look or feel like those before it, but one constant for Research!America is this: we are thankful for you. Stay well, stay safe, and stay connected.

Sincerely,

 

Mary Woolley

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Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed.
Abraham Lincoln