Presidential Debates: Make Medical Research a High Priority

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

Presidential Debates: Make Medical Research a High Priority

Janice Lloyd

The presidential and vice presidential debates need to commit time focusing on how the candidates would prevent and treat deadly diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease and epidemics like Zika.

That is the message Research!America’s CEO and president Mary Woolley sent in a letter on Thursday to the five debate moderators.

Research!America members, Woolley writes, “urge you to pose questions to the presidential and vice presidential candidates during the upcoming debates about what they would do to advance medical progress. How would they ensure research and innovation is a priority for their administration? What would they do in the first 100 days in office to advance research for health?”

The first debate, to be moderated Monday, September 26 by Lester Holt of NBC News, could provide Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump multiple opportunities to explain how they would build a healthier future for patients, their families and all Americans. Nearly 80 percent of respondents 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, according to a national public opinion survey commissioned by Research!America.

Yet, very few Americans know where the candidates stand on the issues of medical research. Two of Lester Holt’s three topics, America’s Direction, Achieving Prosperity, and Securing America, are perfect entry points for Clinton and Trump to outline ways to secure America’s place as a global leader in developing medicines and therapies, provide hope and treatment for families battling mental illnesses and opioid addiction and boost the economy by increasing research dollars that create more jobs.

A prosperous America is also a healthier America as fewer hard-earned dollars are doled out on rising medical expenses. For example, 5.1 million people in the country have Alzheimer’s disease, a neurodegenerative illness for which there is no cure and will cost the nation $236 billion in 2016, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. By 2050, Alzheimer’s is expected to cost the nation $1 trillion dollars.

President Obama has made the fight against Alzheimer’s and cancer key parts of his mission. In 2012, his administration introduced the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease, calling for collaborative approach across state, federal, private and non-profit organizations. This year, he turned his attention to fighting cancer by establishing the Cancer Moonshot and putting vice president Joe Biden in charge after Biden lost his son to brain cancer.

Obama has also asked Congress to fund research for Ebola and Zika, knowing viruses cross borders. The Zika measure is still being battled over on Capitol Hill as more cases are diagnosed in Florida.

How will the next President challenge and secure funds for the best scientists to find new vaccines and treatments?  What initiatives will he or she launch in the first 100 days in office? Voters are looking for answers and hope to hear some on Monday.

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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.