Federal funding for medical research and public health could be sequester casualty
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07/10/13 Seán Kinane
WMNF Drive-Time News Wednesday | Listen to this entire show:

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The furlough of Florida National Guard members isn’t the only concern people have with federal sequestration; another is what across-the-board spending cuts could do to funding for medical research and public health programs.

Many of them are funded through federal agencies like the National Institutes of Health.

We spoke with Mary Wolley, president and CEO of Research!America.

Wolley said that Tuesday a U.S. Senate subcommittee included nearly $31 billion for the NIH, which actually represents a small increase over the pre-sequestration budget.

"We are a non-profit alliance of patient groups, industries involved in healthcare, universities, and scientific associations. All of them have a commitment to making research for higher health a priority in this country. We are located right outside Washington D.C. We work with the media and members of congress,with members of the patient community and the scientific world. We help them to make a more effective case for research in health."

You are also helping to let people know about the sequestration in health. Tell us a little bit about what that is.

"Sequestration, which is just mindless, across the board cuts on many aspects of things that we pay for with our tax dollars, is coming to medical research on top of 10 years of cuts and flat funding that are already in place. What that means is jobs are being lost. People who have many years of education in the sciences and are working to cure cancer and delay the onset of Alzheimer's and end diabetes and a host of other things are being laid off. Especially the young scientists are deciding this isn't a career they can make a living at and are choosing other things to do or going to other countries to do their science. It's really having an impact on scientists and also on patients who are just going to have to wait longer before we find an answer to a whole host of diseases and disabilities."

Are there specific impacts on Florida?

"There sure are. With the current sequester of the funding that Florida is accustomed to receiving from the National Institutes of Health they are taking a $25 million hit. Which means that scientists at USF and at Moffitt just won't have the resources to continue many of the projects that they started or would like to start. As I said they are laying people off and in addition and quite worrisome, there is a proposal in congress right now for another 20% cut for research which would begin on October 1st. It's not law yet, but this is definitely the time to let congress know if you are a person who cares about this that that will not do, this is not what we have in mind as a priority in this county."

What would a solution then be to restore funding to medical research?

"Well we think it's time to call for cures not cuts and we actually have a social media campaign that can be accessed with the hashtag 'cures not cuts' to make research in health a national priority. It used to be and because of that we saw the ends of HIV/AIDS as a killer disease that is now curable and we've seen the end of many cancers as well as Polio previous to that. We won't be seeing much progress soon if we don't make research for health a priority. I'd encourage people that want to know more to check us out at ResearchAmerica.org. We'd be happy to help out and answer questions and have people join us to make sure we can end the devastation of all the diseases and disabilities that zap us of so much of our health and quality of life and are adding so many unnecessary dollars to the healthcare tab."

The full committee markup of the spending bill will be Thursday.

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