Welcome to the Nursing Outlook Blog – “3 Questions” – Timely Interviews with Thought Leaders in Nursing and Health Care Policy

Budget cuts, federal budget negotiations, and funding for health research and related programs………..

These are among the hot topics of the day. All the critical issues that are important to nursing warrant rapid dialogue among informed readers and traditional modes of publishing cannot keep up with the pace of information available. “Agility” is needed to deliver contemporary arguments electronically for persuasive commentary for building consensus that is timely, substantive and prepared for discourse. Blogging and blogs are increasingly providing a paperless platform for professionals to present and debate ideas in the socially connected evolving web. Nursing Outlook is now hosting an online environment – “3 Questions” – to engage nurses with nursing leaders in discussions around focused topics that are important for the profession. Interviews will be routinely edited and posted for readers to learn from thought leaders of the American Academy of Nursing and a variety of other nursing and health care megastars.

Mary Woolley, President and CEO of Research!America gave the keynote address at the 2011 FNINR “NightinGala” on October 14th in Washington DC. Click here for the transcript. 

“Building Support for Nursing Research in Challenging Economic Times”

We invite commentary that is thoughtful and provocative! Join the online dialogue!

Veronica D. Feeg, PhD, RN, FAAN
Editor/Moderator

Mary Woolley, President and CEO of Research!America

Question 1. Funding for health research is at risk as Congress grapples with a federal deficit and weakened economy.  How will funding cuts for research and prevention impact our nation’s health and global competitiveness?

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The first thing to say is that cutting medical and health research is not a deficit reduction strategy. The American public very strongly supports medical research and also supports prevention as goals we must achieve sooner rather than later.  We know from a recent poll commissioned by Research!America that in fact 94 percent of Americans believe accelerating, not reducing, our investment in research to improve health should be a national priority.

 

There is so much is at stake right now.  The handwriting could go up on the wall in permanent ink in the next weeks and months regarding funding cuts that could impede scientific discovery and evidence-based health care delivery for a generation or more — impeding innovative work by younger researchers in particular – and young researchers who are already making alternative career choices at that, or even decamping to more science-friendly nations. Cuts could slow rather than stimulate job growth and weaken our global competitiveness.  I mentioned other nations – several have made great strides in innovation and in evidence-based health care dealing with a model that we developed here in the U.S. And right now, they are committing to a higher investment in research with the U.S. falling behind relative to our gross domestic product or GDP.  The total public and private spending on research and development (R&D) is currently about 2.6 percent of GDP in the U.S. and higher in a number of other countries as a percentage. The federal government’s investment in this country for health R&D still totals a significant amount of money – approximately $135 billion. But that is less than 1 percent of GDP.

Question 2. Describe some of the ways research supports economic growth?

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 Economists have long recognized the importance of investment in research and development as a driver of technological development and U.S. economic growth.  In fact, R&D accounts for approximately 50 percent of our economic growth over the past several decades.  A recent report from United for Medical Research (UMR) notes that last year alone, NIH research funding led to the creation of almost 500,000 jobs. Fifteen states experienced job growth of 10,000 or more due to this support. 

 

Research conducted at universities and other institutions across the country impacts local communities and local businesses through the purchase of equipment and materials and the employment of so many people, not only those actually conducting research, but those who support the research enterprise. That UMR report estimates that NIH research funding, in total, produced $69.19 billion in new economic activity — $58 billion from the annual FY2010 budget and $11 billion from ARRA or so called stimulus funds.

 

There is another way that research supports economic growth. By helping achieve better health, research helps drive economic growth and prosperity by increasing productivity via a healthier work force, and by reducing health care costs as more care becomes evidence-based and prevention of disease and disability becomes both more prevalent and more effective. There’s really nothing better than research to stimulate economic growth.

Question 3. What role can the nursing community play in sustaining funding for research and building a case for a stronger investment in research and innovation?

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There’s so much that the nursing community can do. Nurses have a storied history of impacting policy through the conduct of research and the application of evidence – and also impacting it by advocacy! Since this is a time of heightened challenge and threat, advocacy really can’t wait.  It’s critical to assert greater influence in the public policy and decision-making process as we are besieged with challenges to science and even logic that could undermine advances in health and health care delivery.  Nurses can help set the record straight by educating the public and policymakers about the benefits of research.  Your involvement is a must here.  The country needs more nurses as advocates for policy change. 

 

There are three specific things I recommend that nurses can do now to effect change:

 

1.         Request face-to-face meetings with your congressional delegates and/or those who are running for election against them in the 2012 election. We’re already in the midst of the election season. If you can’t talk to a member of Congress or someone running against them, then talking to one of their top aides is just as effective. Tell them why research and nursing research in particular should be a central part of their agenda – should be featured on their website – should be part of all their speeches. Tell them it’s central to you and central to our nation’s future.

 

2.         Visit our website, (http://www.yourcandidatesyourhealth.org), which is a voter education initiative. It will be up and active in the new year. It should be one of your New Year’s resolutions to find out where your candidates and other elected officials stand on research-related issues. You can visit the site often and urge everybody you know to do the same thing.

 

3.         Throughout 2012, the year ahead, it should be a priority to attend rallies and town hall meetings in your community to tell the candidates and other elected officials that investing in research helps Americans live healthier lives, grows our economy and strengthens our global competitiveness. Please tell them to make research for health and wellness a priority.

 

I really think that with the combined impact of large numbers of the nursing community taking up the advocacy challenge, with the added power of many more who you could recruit to the cause, we can navigate today’s uncharted political currents by advocacy. That’s advocacy with credibility, assurance and impact – things that distinguish the nursing community. We can work together and create a positive course forward for our nation.