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Public Health at the Forefront

Dear Research Advocate,

Congress is officially out of session this week, but because negotiations to determine whether budget caps are raised are continuing, advocacy must continue as well.  More than fifty organizations signed on to an AAAS-led letter to Congressional leaders asking them to prioritize federal research investments, raise the budget caps, and provide sustainable and robust investments for scientific research in Fiscal Year 2020.  Now it’s time for more individual hands on this deck. Sign the Raise the Caps petition here.

One of the concerns Members of Congress are likely hearing about back home is a disease once declared eliminated — measles.  More than 500 cases have been confirmed in the U.S. so far this year, and the trend line looks to be headed higher.  Last week, the Senate passed a bipartisan resolution, introduced by Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), recognizing the importance of vaccines, noting that  “…the dissemination of unfounded and debunked theories about the dangers of vaccinations poses a great risk to public health.” A USA Today opinion piece puts aside First Amendment concerns to argue that tech companies have a moral responsibility to address the proliferation of misinformation on social media sites.

There is more to the misinformation challenge than a battle of facts versus Truth Decay (the title of a 2018 book from RAND and a topic they continue to explore); it behooves us all to find more effective ways to work with groups and individuals whose cultural practices and preferences are different from our own. American Enterprise Institute (AEI) President Arthur Brooks’ new book, Love Thy Enemies outlines constructive approaches to overcoming the “culture of contempt.” Brooks posits that “social morality’’ — grounded in compassion and fairness — is widely shared across ideologies, even as issues of personal morality are considered quite differently across the population. It is possible, Brooks suggests, to constructively reframe seemingly stark and disputatious positions around social morality — and the time to do so is now!

In addition to leading public health efforts to combat measles, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is working to combat an emerging pathogen called Candida auris (C auris) that presents a serious global health threat. In addition to being multi-drug resistant, C auris is challenging to detect. To enable a rapid response to this dangerous pathogen and others, the CDC coordinates the Antibiotic Resistance Lab Network, a nationwide network of labs with sophisticated diagnostic technology. The recent appearance of C auris reminds us just how critical it is to fund cutting-edge public health technology — along with brainpower — in order to protect our nation.  As Victor Dzau, M.D., President of the National Academy of Medicine and Research!America Board Member noted at this week’s National Biodefense Summit held in Washington, “it is only a matter of time, I believe, until we see the next disaster or next outbreak.”

Dr. Ned Sharpless officially became FDA’s Acting Director last Friday.  He is a leader with energy, vision and commitment who is committed to serving the public’s interest. A DLA Piper article suggests that opioid regulation, clinical trial reform, e-cigarettes/youth vaping and drug pricing will be the top priorities on Dr. Sharpless’ agenda.

Drug pricing is in fact one of the topics for this month’s Research!America alliance members meeting. Liz Fowler, Vice President, Global Health Policy at Johnson & Johnson and former Chief Health Council on the Senate Finance Committee, will discuss policy considerations around prescription drug pricing.  Lizbet Boroughs, Associate Vice President, Federal Relations at the Association of American Universities, will update us on recent actions involving foreign funding of U.S. academic research. This lunch meeting and call will be held on Wednesday, April 24 from 11:45 a.m. – 12:45 p.m. ET.  Email Jacqueline, [email protected] for more details and to RSVP!

Research!America’s 2020 Advocacy Award nominations will open next week.  Be on the lookout for the announcement and make the case for an inspiring individual or organization.


Mary Woolley