A Weekly Advocacy Letter from Mary Woolley: Mid-year, no action on Zika

Mary Woolley

Dear Research Advocate:  
The Cancer Moonshot took some exciting steps forward during a day of action that engaged more than 6,000 individuals across the nation. As Greg Simon, the executive director of the Moonshot taskforce, framed it, the moonshot is designed to “invoke systems change in the way we approach cancer.” Pursuing the goal of faster progress from a systems perspective is important, not only because it has led to promising new cross-sector, cross-functional collaborations (e.g. an Oncology Center of Excellence at FDA, new public-private partnerships), but because it may help seed a much needed change in mindset among policymakers committed to faster medical progress.
There is a system behind medical progress, a public, private, biomedical and social sciences research-driven system. We need a policy environment that leads to strength across the system, and that means we need more champions like Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), determined leaders willing to fight for public and private sector investment and biomedical and social sciences research. Too often some part of the system is either demonized or neglected, and that’s not a formula for success, it’s a recipe for stasis...or worse. 
It goes without saying (or should) that health care delivery research is a crucial part of this system.  After all, the return on medical discovery depends on whether patients receive the right care at the right time in the right setting. I was honored this week to receive the AcademyHealth Chair Award, which is granted to individuals who work to advocate for health care delivery research. In my acceptance remarks, I spoke about the critical need for advocates to better communicate the impact of this research. Only by doing so will we garner the level of support this field of research desperately needs and deserves.
A new Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 73% of Americans say the U.S. should invest more money in Zika research. However, the House-passed Zika bill failed in the Senate on Tuesday after several “poison-pill” offsets and policy provisions were added.  It is truly discouraging that some members of Congress are unwilling to treat Zika as the emergency it is and pass a “clean” spending bill. We will continue to press Congress to put public health first and pass robust emergency Zika funding without diverting funds from other public health purposes or weighing the bill down with controversial riders. I hope you will do the same.
An announcement from Campaign for Cures: this week we unveiled our 2016 election blog, managed by Janice Lloyd, former USA Today senior editor and health reporter, as well as an interactive election map, containing hundreds of quotes to educate voters about their candidates’ stance on medical progress. We urge you to spread the word among your colleagues, friends and families, so that more and more potential voters take this important information to heart as the general election approaches.  Informed voters and engaged candidates...a solid foundation for elevating research and innovation to a higher rank among national priorities.
If you haven’t heard about the group called Rescuing Biomedical Research, I hope you will take this opportunity to check their website out. Shirley Tilghman, Harold Varmus, Marc Kirschner and Bruce Alberts initiated this project to collect and organize input for solutions to problems in the research ecosystem.  Share your thoughts!
Celebrate the Fourth of July with enthusiasm -- and determination to make our nation stronger as we recommit to our history of discovery and innovation for the benefit of all!  
Mary Woolley


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America’s economic destiny lies in innovation, technology, science and research.
The Honorable John E. Porter