A Weekly Advocacy Message From Mary Woolley: Not only gold medals are at stake in Rio

Mary Woolley

Dear Research Advocate:  
World-class athletes are getting ready to go for the gold in Rio.  No one is going for copper, but researchers have found that in healthcare settings, this mineral is a champion when it comes to reducing the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria (one of several public health threats that has received attention in the run-up to the Games). If you are looking for an example of the return on research, this article about the role of copper in reducing hospital associated infections provides an excellent one. Years of investment in research, from discovery science through to trials, can and will pay off for the public with every expectation of many more lives saved in years ahead. 
Antimicrobial resistance is not the only public health concern related to the Olympics in Rio. At home and abroad, the CDC is warning Americans to take precautions in order to avoid exposure to the Zika virus. Meanwhile, Congress adjourned for recess without providing emergency funding. Time is of the essence, as HHS Secretary Burwell indicated this week in a letter to Congress; programs like Zika clinical trials (just announced today) could be brought to a screeching halt.  According to a new public opinion survey conducted by Morning Consult, a majority of Americans say the Zika response must be at the top of Congress’ to-do list.
Getting the Cures legislation across the finish line is another “must” item on the congressional to-do list for September. Thank you to all who have joined us in the first week of our month-long advocacy push in support of Cures. This week has focused on the role of discovery in our research ecosystem and featured blog posts, researcher perspectives, and patient stories. I hope you will stay engaged next week as we shift focus to development. This is a prime opportunity to highlight the key role that the private sector plays in advancing medical progress; to stress the importance of participation in clinical trials; and to underscore the urgent need for developing innovative solutions to what ails us. The conversation continues on social media with #CuresNOW.
The engagement of researchers, patients, healthcare professionals, industry and academic leaders and all advocates will be needed next month as Congress works through unfinished business on the FY17 appropriations process.  A short-term continuing resolution (CR) will almost certainly be passed to buy time until after the elections in November.  But as this article in The Morning Consult makes clear, some within and outside Congress are pushing for a long-term CR that extends current funding levels until March or beyond.  We must push back.  Flat-funding for our nation’s research agencies would squander scientific opportunity, ignore overwhelming public support for faster medical progress, and undercut the hard work of House and Senate Labor-H leaders Tom Cole (R-OK-04), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-03), Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Patty Murray (D-WA), and their Appropriations Committee colleagues. Research!America will be spearheading an organizational sign-on letter urging Congress to finish their work on FY17 appropriations, warning about the damaging effects of a long-term CR. I will share the text of the letter and the opportunity to sign-on before long. In the interim, please call or email if you have ideas to help drive advocacy for this issue.
A reminder: the National Health Research Forum will be held at the Newseum here in Washington, DC in just five weeks! I invite you to join us - please register here to reserve your seat today.  
Mary Woolley

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Funding research gives all of us a better chance of living a healthier life.
Pam Hirata, heart disease survivor