Experts Call for More Research, Discussion on Prevention

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The Campaign for Cures Election 2016 blog features news, analysis, commentary and data about the presidential candidates and congressional races in key states on issues relevant to medical progress. Janice Lloyd, former USA Today senior editor and health reporter, manages The Campaign for Cures blog. You can reach Janice at   Follow Campaign for Cures, a national voter education initiative, on Twitter and Facebook and visit

Experts Call for More Research, Discussion on Prevention

Janice Lloyd

A healthy dose of the conversation at Research America’s 2016 National Health Research Forum in Washington, D.C., on September 8 centered on the need for more research on prevention, ranging from making wellness more appealing to ensuring diagnostic accuracy.

“It’s extraordinary what prevention does,’’ said Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “In the past 20 years of vaccinating children, we’ve prevented 300 million illnesses and saved $1.4 trillion, but what you hear about is the side effects and whether you need all those shots."

“It takes a challenge to our imaginations to learn how to talk about prevention, how to count up preventions in ways that will gain congressional support and public support.”

Case in point, she said, is the inability of NIH to secure sufficient funds for vaccine trials for Zika, the mosquito-borne virus that causes horrific birth defects in children.

In general, William Hait said, “When it comes to talking about prevention, we’re woefully short of doing enough. One of my very good colleagues said, when we talked about not doing enough, “The problem with prevention is nothing happens.”

Some things do catch on, though, such as taking statins, he added. That’s because something happens when cholesterol is decreased and it gets at one of the fundamental causes of diseases.

“We’ve spent so much time in our research dollar on understanding manifestations of disease and on how to treat disease, but we have very few (solutions) of getting to the cause and interrupting some diseases,'' said Hait, global head, Janssen Research & Development. Hait, LLC, one of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson.

“There’s tremendous opportunity because no one wants to get a disease. This (prevention) is an area that deserves enormous input and public attention.”

Hortensia Amaro said research needs to take a fresh or “more upstream’’ look at public health. Downstream being the place where, once a person becomes ill, treatments occur. Amaro is associate vice provost for community research initiatives and dean's professor of social work and preventative medicine, University of Southern California.

A major challenge that speaks to the importance of prevention is cost, she said. “We spend almost 2 or 3 times more than another peer country,’’ and our health status is lower than theirs, a reality she says the American public is unaware of.

 “We need a total change of the conversation,’’ she said. We need to  “Look at the causes like social determinants of health, like income inequality. Medical students need to understand more of how the prevention and promotion of health and prevention of disease is more upstream. The clinical office is an important place, but it’s not going to do it alone.”

In the past, doctors and researchers could only talk and share ideas. Now, there’s more data because of electronic records.

In the day’s closing panel, the issue of the relevant role of electronic records was still very much alive.

“Electronic health records will help link the disparities to illnesses," said Robert Califf, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration.

“We are starting to take advantage of those resources,’’ he said, adding we’re linking these things together and then will come the time to devise strategies.

Califf and panelists discussed ways the FDA has improved and evolved, along with the use of real world data in clinical research.

Funding the FDA and other health agencies has to be done in sustainable ways with the support of Congress, said The Honorable Kweisi Mfume, former U.S. Representative.

“User fees can’t pay for it all,’’ he said. “What alarms me is you have members of the House and Senate who feel very supportive about the FDA going forward. Then you have some who have no idea, and another group who never had this come up on the campaign trail. They have to be reached in such a way they become real advocates for this agency.”


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Presidential Candidates Should Participate in Debate on Science

Source: A Research!America and poll of U.S. adults conducted in partnership with Zogby Analytics in September 2015.