Friday, August 22, 2008

Candidates: Can we talk about your medical research platforms?

by Margaret Anderson, COO, FasterCures

Over the next two and a half months, the two presidential candidates will have endless opportunities to give the American public specifics on their platforms. With several competing priorities vying for their attention, it seems hard to imagine that there will be much airplay for the importance of and challenges for medical research. Why is this?

One reason might be America’s low level of scientific literacy. A 2007 Harris Interactive survey of 1,304 adults found that only 26 percent believe that they themselves have a good understanding of science, and 44 percent couldn’t name a single scientist, living or dead, that they’d consider a role model for our young people. But this does not mean Americans do not care about science. In fact, another Harris poll found that 85 percent of Americans want a presidential debate on science. Maybe Americans are leaving the medical research discussions to “those” people who are in the know.

Another reason could be that medical research doesn’t rise up your priority list until your health is personally affected. We know that we’ll all be patients, some day, but if you are not yet a patient, why worry, right? People also probably don’t realize the continuum of how we get from basic research to clinical research to therapies. But as the baby boomers age, the issue of how close we are to cures continues to take on new and more important meaning.

No matter what the reason, the fact remains that Americans need to hear more than just the specifics of the health care reform platforms that focus mainly on economic issues. They need to hear about a care– to–cure platform, and our nation’s leaders need to answer the question Michael J. Fox posed, “Who is in charge of finding cures?” The list of challenges is long: flat funding for NIH, concerns about retaining the next generation of researchers, questions about the appropriate balance between basic and translational research at the, low levels of funding for FDA, inability to get the Reagan-Udall Foundation off the ground because of political games, need for research to be included in discussions of electronic health records...the list goes on.

We are part of ongoing discussions with many organizations about these issues and have several initiatives to address these problems. We are one of the partners supporting Research!America's voter education initiative Your Candidates. Your Health, which highlights presidential and congressional candidates' positions on health and research.

We welcome your thoughts on how to shift the debate from one focused on health care to one encompassing care and cures.

1 comment:

Ali Ansary said...

Great post Margaret to open up this discussion. I believe a debate solely focusing on science, although a good idea, would saturate the debates and as a result people will stop paying attention. In terms of a debate, maybe what should happen is having 3-4 major debates and each debates covering only a certain number of topics.

In terms of the lack of knowledge for the general public on the sciences, one reason may be how influenced today's political leaders are by religion. I am a believer of the separation of church and state. Today, science can become a controversial topic withing a religious setting and as a result you have barriers.

As important as it is for Senator Obama, for example, to announce his VP candidate, it would be an interesting idea to potentially announce who different people are on his cabinet. In this situation, I believe in the same way science promotes translation research, we should we promoting translation collaboration in an effort to bring the this topic to the table. Just some initial thoughts.