A Weekly Advocacy Message From Mary Woolley: Research!America Thanks You on Thanksgiving

Mary Woolley

Dear Research Advocate,

As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, it is fitting to thank our public health workforce for their tireless efforts on our behalf every day of the year. Monday marked the official Public Health Thank You Day (PHTYD), but it is ongoing. This year’s effort has been extraordinary, with more than 50 organizations partnering with us to get the word out. For the first time since we launched PHTYD in 2005, Congress officially joined the effort. As I mentioned last week, the co-chairs of the House Public Health Caucus introduced a resolution supporting PHTYD. Online, more than 1,000 organizations and individuals participated, including federal officials from HHS and DOD, and members of Congress from both sides of the aisle. The hashtag #PHTYD garnered 5.9 million impressions!

One of the distinguished leaders who posted tweets yesterday was Surgeon General Vivek Murthy. Last week, Dr. Murthy released a report focused on drug and alcohol abuse, a public health threat that he says is not being taken seriously enough: “I want our country to understand the magnitude of this crisis. I’m not sure everyone does.” His call to action was echoed in a blog post that Dr. Saul Levin, CEO and Medical Director of the American Psychiatric Society, wrote as part of PHTYD. Addiction is emblematic of the issues public health personnel work to address: complex, pervasive and urgent. As the nation’s elected representatives consider priorities for 2017, equipping our public health workforce with the resources they need to combat threats like addiction must be paramount.

Congress left Washington, D.C., last Friday without passing Fiscal Year 2017 appropriations. It looks increasingly likely that they will pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) that flat-funds government until March or even May of 2017. Last Thursday night we sent a letter signed by more than 280 prominent organizations and individuals, calling on Congress to finish FY17 appropriations this year instead of saddling our nation with another CR. We believe it is important to continue to speak out, rather than condone - through our silence - serial CRs as acceptable policymaking. 

I recently participated in a panel discussion hosted by the Bipartisan Policy Center during which we discussed the Cures initiative, a two-year process that may, at long last, manifest in legislation that can be signed into law. Reportedly, funding for NIH (the cancer moonshot, precision medicine, etc), FDA, and to combat the opioid crisis will be set aside in a trust fund-like structure. Appropriators will determine on an annual basis whether and how the funding is allocated. The size of the overall fund has not been made public. What does all this add up to? Whether we ultimately support the Cures legislation depends on understanding all of its provisions. That said, we truly appreciate that the bill’s champions have worked so long and hard to accelerate medical progress. If one of the final acts of the 114th Congress is to pass legislation focused on that goal, it’s a solid foundation for advocacy going forward.

In closing, I wish you and your loved ones a safe and Happy Thanksgiving. I am thankful for each of you; my colleagues and I at Research!America are humbled and grateful to be entrusted with working for and with you. 


Mary Woolley

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The capabilities are enormous, a little bit of research can pay off quite a bit in the long run.
Paul D’ Addario, retinitis pigmentosa patient