First Presidential Debate: Nothing New for Patients, Families

Campaign for Cures

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

First Presidential Debate: Nothing New for Patients, Families

Janice Lloyd

While many important topics were discussed in the first presidential debate Monday night, overall the presidential candidates missed an opportunity to discuss their vision for advancing medical progress and improving the health of our nation.

Two of Lester Holt’s three debate themes, America’s Direction and Achieving Prosperity, came close to drawing out answers from the candidates about research that improves mental and physical health, finds cures and treatments for some diseases and prevents other illnesses. Before diving into the responses from Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, let’s review findings from a public opinion survey commissioned by Research!America.

True or False? The majority of Americans say the candidates don’t talk about medical issues enough and fail to understand their concerns. True.

True or False? Most Americans say it is important for the next President and the next Congress to assign a high priority to putting health research and innovation to work to assure continued medical progress? True (among an overwhelming majority: 80%).

Research!America sent a letter to debate moderators last week urging them to ask questions related to medical and health research. Clinton and Trump provided these insights:

Achieving Prosperity: Clinton mentioned the need to create jobs in infrastructure and technology, but on this night she overlooked the paychecks brought in from jobs in research and innovation, areas she’s highlighted when discussing job creation in the past and also on her website. A majority of Americans (89%) say investing in research is important to job creation, technological breakthroughs and economic growth, a survey shows. Trump focused on loss of jobs due to bad trade deals and high corporate taxes.

America’s Direction: Racial healing and black lives versus blue lives garnered most of the attention from both candidates. Does the country “Stop and Frisk,” as Trump wants to do, or does the country decide to listen to Clinton and improve community policing of black neighborhoods by helping officers better assess mental health issues?

"Mental health is one of the biggest concerns," Clinton said, arguing that police are having to handle "a lot of difficult mental health problems" in the course of their jobs. "They want support, they want more training, they want more assistance," she added. "And I think the federal government could be in a position where we would offer and provide that."

Last month, Clinton rolled out a mental health plan that pledged to devote more resources to law enforcement, including evidence-based training.  Many Americans (82%) say mental health services including those to treat depression should be part of any basic health care plan.

On gun control, both called for stricter measures. Here, again, was a missed opportunity, we think, and such an obvious one calling for research: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has zero funds for gun safety research. We’ll keep listening and sorting through issues as the candidates campaign and debate twice more.

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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.