In his State of the Union address, President Trump rightly emphasized the profoundly important role scientific discovery has played in strengthening our nation and advancing the goals and aspirations of the American people. His words reinforced both the strategic significance of public- and private-sector driven research and development, and its necessary role in realizing goals such as delivering children from life-threatening illness and addressing scourges like HIV/AIDS, the ongoing impact of which is most pronounced among racial and ethnic minorities and low-income populations.
But to turn aspiration into action – whether the goal is to secure our nation’s scientific capacity and leadership, end HIV/AIDS and other illnesses disproportionately affecting vulnerable populations, or overcome childhood cancers – the president and Congress must do more than acknowledge the vast return on research: they must fuel it.
A January 2019 survey commissioned by Research!America demonstrates that Americans want faster progress: 63% believe our nation is not spending enough on research to prevent, cure and treat disease and disability; 84% think faster medical progress should be a congressional priority, and 82% place a priority on research to address racial, ethnic and income-related health disparities.
Yet, there has been dangerous erosion in the resources the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) can tap to fulfill its day-to-day responsibilities, hamstringing the very federal agency with top responsibility for public health preparedness and response, including HIV/AIDS.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH), which conducts and funds research that – coupled with private sector medical discovery – fuels life-saving medical progress, is forced to turn away 80% of the meritorious research grants that come through its door.
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), which works to maximize the return on every health dollar by empowering better healthcare, is grossly underfunded.
Other science agencies playing a crucial role in scientific and health progress, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), are stuck in limbo waiting for final FY19 funding.
To meet Americans’ expectations for faster medical and public health progress that benefits us all, including stomping out HIV/AIDS, Congress and the President must treat disease like the mortal enemy it is, and fight it no holds barred.
This not only means equipping federal agencies with the resources needed to break new ground, but being vigilant in ensuring federal policy supports private sector medical innovation. To achieve eminently worthy objectives like putting an end to deadly childhood cancers, both public sector and private sector research and discovery are essential.
The president highlighted our nation’s legacy of making “giant leaps of science and discovery.” These leaps reflect a long and tough relay race in which multiple research disciplines and both the public and private sector push forward toward the finish line. By working on a bipartisan basis and championing every leg of that race, Congress and the President can assure that our nation continues to fulfill this vital legacy.
Research!America is the nation’s largest nonprofit public education and advocacy alliance working to make research to improve health a higher national priority. Founded in 1989, Research!America is supported by member organizations representing 125 million Americans. Visit www.researchamerica.org.