Rally for Medical Research to urge Congress to prioritize NIH funding
While the ice bucket challenge has raised awareness—and millions of dollars—for ALS research, participants from nearly 300 research institutions and medical advocacy organizations are taking a much drier, and broader, approach to fund raising.
The all-day Rally for Medical Research—Capitol Hill Day, Sept. 18, will involve participants meeting with their home state senators and representatives to urge them to make funding for the National Institutes of Health a national priority.
Participants will be placed into groups reflecting the spectrum of medical research stakeholders: researchers, survivors, patient advocates and clinicians, grouped by state.
“We expect to have upwards of 300 people by the registration deadline,” said Jon Retzlaff, managing director, Office of Science Policy and Governmental Affairs at the American Association for Cancer Research, which co-founded the first Rally for Medical Research last year. Registration has been extended until Sept. 5.
In early April, organizers held a street pep rally, which attracted 10,000 people, to raise awareness for the importance of sustained budget increases for research supported by the NIH.
“There was so much momentum and enthusiasm from the April rally that we felt why not do a rally on Capitol Hill in September, when Congress is wrapping up spending bills and other legislation, as that would be a good time for getting our message out about the growing gap in NIH funding ” said Retzlaff.
A reception will be held the evening before the rally, “to celebrate NIH’s importance in medical research with the diverse community it serves,” he added.
The day before the event, participants can attend a webinar on Washington politics and NIH funding; they also will receive hands-on training for pitching their message to political leaders—that increasing government funding for medical research is an investment that leads to more progress, more hope and more lives saved.
A poll conducted in December 2012 by Research America showed more than half of Americans surveyed would be willing to pay $1 per week more in taxes if that money was earmarked for additional medical research. The survey also found:
- 85% of respondents were concerned about stagnant funding for medical research
- 74% said it was important to conduct medical or health research to understand and eliminate health disparities often found among minorities or lower-income citizens
- 70% believed the federal government should increase support for programs and policies to increase the number of young Americans who pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)
- 61% said the cost of healthcare was the single most important health issue facing the nation
- 60% doubted the U.S. will be considered the number one world leader in science and technology by 2020.