A weekly advocacy message from Mary Woolley: Onward to 2016 with the wind at our backs

Mary Woolley

Dear Research Advocate,
As the year draws to a close it is important to reflect on accomplishments made on behalf of patients and their families. We do have a lot to celebrate. Advocates for research for health accomplished not one, but FOUR, major goals:

  1. A meaningful increase in federal funding for medical research. The NIH has received an additional $2 billion for FY16, the FDA and CDC saw a 5% increase in funding over FY15 levels, and NSF received an additional $118 million and the freedom to continue their work in the social and behavioral science fields unhindered. If we keep at it, we will look back on these increases as the beginning of a heightened national commitment to science funding - one that will be sustained for years to come.
  2. AHRQ was saved from termination and funded at a level greater than slated in the original House and Senate appropriations bills. However, given the role this research plays in optimizing health and health care, AHRQ should be a priority, not an afterthought. We have more work to do.
  3. Making the R&D Tax Credit permanent was a pivotal step in creating a tax system that incentivizes innovation and encourages investments in groundbreaking technologies.
  4. The two-year suspension of the Medical Device Excise Tax was another important pro-patient, pro-innovation policy change. The next step -- and we can achieve it -- is its repeal.

The research advocacy community has earned some boasting rights! We put together this infographic so that, when the going gets tough, we have a one stop shop for evidence that advocacy truly does have an impact.

I believe it is also important to take a step back and look at the big picture before diving into the new year. How has America’s health changed in the past year? Where have we fallen short? Where have there been victories? America’s Health Rankings provides us with some compelling answers.
During 2015, health disparities became even more prevalent, the rate of premature deaths remain unchanged for the third year in a row, and drug-related deaths increased by 4%, something the CDC plans to address in 2016, according to their Year in Review. However, it is not all bad news! Preventable hospitalizations, squarely in AHRQ’s wheelhouse, decreased by 8% this past year, and a pattern of improving general health and reducing risky behavior was observed (11% decrease in physical inactivity and a 5% decrease in smoking, for example).
As we look back on 2015 and ahead to a new year, during which Americans will choose our next President and Congress, we have much to celebrate and much to contemplate. I am encouraged by the gains we made this year. If we keep at it, I am confident that faster medical progress, including major steps forward in preventing disease and disability, is achievable. With your help, we will persuade candidates running for office to embrace this goal, pledging specific steps they will take to act on it if elected.

On behalf of the Research!America board of directors and my talented colleagues on staff, thank you for your insights, encouragement, and partnership throughout the last year. As we mark the beginning of the 28th year of our alliance on January 4, I wish you and your loved ones a happy New Year!


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