A weekly advocacy message from Mary Woolley: Zika virus and many more reasons to support research

Mary Woolley

Dear Research Advocate,
If flight cancellations triggered by winter storm Jonas did not dampen plans to travel south for some much needed warmth, the new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) travel warnings about the Zika virus might. The President was briefed early this week by CDC Director Tom Frieden, HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell, and NIAID Director Anthony Fauci in the ‘situation room.’ According to Dr. Fauci, "an extensive research and development effort" to address this emerging concern has already begun. The Zika virus, which may be linked to the development of severe birth defects, is also gaining the attention of major industry members like GSK and Sanofi, who are looking into ways to deploy their vaccine technologies to address this growing threat. In our increasingly globalized world, keeping Americans safe means we must tap both public and private sector determination and ingenuity to advance global health and prevent national crises.

Speaking of uniting public/private sector forces behind progress, the “moonshot” to cure cancer is truly taking off. Today, President Obama announced a new task force which will produce a report by the end of the year outlining the necessary steps needed to accelerate our ability to understand, diagnose, treat, and cure cancer. This follows immediately on the heels of sessions at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, where Vice President Joe Biden was joined by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins and Secretary Burwell to discuss the #CancerMoonshot. Giving the keynote speech, the Vice President told forum guests he plans to ask for increased funds and stakeholder community cooperation in an escalated search for a cure for cancer, aiming to make a decade’s worth of progress in five years.

Former President Bill Clinton addressed evidence-based health care last weekend, as he spoke at the Patient Safety Summit about the importance of reducing medical errors. He told the audience the results of their work had implications far beyond health care to become a “model for problem-solving in all areas across the 21st-century world.” Following this summit, Mr. Clinton held the Clinton Health Matters Initiative’s Annual Activation Summit, which focused on topics including addressing health disparities through technology and innovation. As advocates for research to improve health, we must capitalize on the opportunities provided by Mr.Clinton’s work to make the case for health services research and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). All too often, health services research is overlooked and under-appreciated -- I urge you to utilize our materials, like our new AHRQ infographic, during your advocacy efforts. It’s important that we all add a push for AHRQ to our advocacy agendas and talking points this year. 

For many people suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME), 2015 was a turning point in better understanding, accepting, and diagnosing their debilitating condition. With new study results out this week that conclude as many as one in 50 16-year-olds could be suffering from CFS/ME, advocates hope to see last year’s interest spurred into this year’s action. See our newly updated CFS/ ME factsheet for more information.

Lastly, the Democrats recently squared off ahead of the Iowa caucus, now it’s the GOP’s turn. Don’t forget to tune into the Republican debate tonight at 9:00 pm ET on Fox News. We’re pushing those who plan to show up for the debate to use this time to discuss what they would do to speed medical progress if elected president. With the Iowa caucus next week, this is the time to weigh in. Tweet questions to the moderators, @BretBaier and @megynkelly, with the hashtags #Campaign4Cures and #GOPdebate.


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