Hello everyone, and welcome. I’m Valarie Basheda, WebMD’s Director of News and Special Projects. Today we’ll be watching the National Health Research Forum, a once-a-year gathering of top leaders talking about innovations in health and medicine research. We’ll be livestreaming the event taking place at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.
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The event features three expert panels, each followed with a Q&A from the audience. The first one will get underway at noon, and will include Anthony Fauci, MD, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He’ll be talking about where health and medical research will be in 2023.
You can share your thoughts with us by clicking “Make a comment” in the blue bar below. We’ll be asking some questions about the topics under discussion throughout the event, and we look forward to hearing from you.
Joining me today is Ashley Hayes, our senior health news editor. We’ll be watching with you and providing highlights of today’s event.
The first panel is about to get underway.
By 2023, China is supposed to overtake the United States in research and development funding, says moderator Corby Kummer. China is expected to spend $602 billion, compared to $593 billion in the U.S.
France Córdova, PhD, director, National Science Foundation, says that 94% of the $7 billion in funding it receives from Congress goes right back to researchers. She says it’s important to remind everyone that they need to be advocates for science and engineering.
Richard Myers, Ph.D., president and science director, HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, says he believes a big problem is "that we don’t educate the public and our politicians very well."
From Anthony Fauci, M.D., director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases:
“We need a complete transformational change about how we look at science in this country.”
"It’s a clear and present danger if we don’t beef up our investment in research," says John Seffrin, Ph.D., CEO, American Cancer Society.
When asked how to get the message across about the importance of research funding, Seffrin said: “I just think we have to play harder ball.”
Members of Congress are "under a lot of constraints, fiscally," said Córdova. "That's a real challenge." She says researchers and others must fight against allowing science to become political.
Asked if the Ebola outbreak won't shock lawmakers into seeing a need for basic research (and if not, what will?), Fauci said, "This will shock them into thinking, 'Where was that vaccine you should have gotten for me?'"
Fauci said that while individual members of Congress will say they are in favor of research, cutting the budget is a higher priority. "They’re telling you we can’t do it because it’s not the highest priority."
Córdova talked about the importance of education. “We need a wholesale different approach with the very youngest people.”
Córdova spoke of the need to bring science to life in elementary, middle and high school classrooms, saying that each school -- no matter its location -- offers different opportunities for science education and engaging students in real experiments.
Fauci said that change has to come from the highest levels and needs to happen for longer than a 1-year budget cycle. "What I mean about transformation is real commitment, a decades commitment."
The second panel is about to begin.
Jack Watters, M.D., vice president, external medical affairs, Pfizer Inc.: "The happiest news is that we are living longer, and that is a cause for celebration."
CDC Director on the Cost of Ebola
"The costs of failure to establish a core level of public health services are mind-boggling," said CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden. He cited the Ebola outbreak in West Africa as an example, saying it's "worse than recognized" and the international response to combat it is the largest in CDC history.
"If we could just replay the tape 2 or 3 years ago" and if we'd established basic systems to find health threats, respond to them effectively and prevent them, this outbreak would have been different, he said.
"If we'd done that with a tiny fraction of what we will spend on this (outbreak) ... we would have prevented these outbreaks from getting out of hand," he said.
Lynn Goldman, M.D., M.S., M.P.H., dean, Milken Institute School of Public Health, The George Washington University, said she’s concerned about an increase in pathogens that are antibiotic resistant. “We’re not going to be able to control that very easily.”
"Public health really is a best buy," Frieden said. "It's what protects all of us. It's what keeps us safe ... Every dollar we invest is going to pay off."
The one way to save the most lives with medical care is keeping blood pressure under control, Frieden said. Despite all the money that's spent, of the 68 million Americans with high blood pressure, only half of them have it under control, he said. "We have so much room to grow in improving quality, and that will give us such a health return on our health investment."
Georges Benjamin, M.D., executive director, American Public Health Association: “We don’t understand how to craft a system to ensure that people can be healthy.”
Goldman says she sees more corporations investing in prevention for their employees, but "that message has not gotten through to Congress." While it would involve more spending on research, the payoff for the taxpayer would be "enormous," she said.
Richard Kronick, Ph.D., director, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, said that while prevention saves lives, it’s a more difficult story to tell than finding a cure for cancer.
Frieden says he believes telling individual patients' stories can help make a difference in terms of funding.
In addition, he said, "No one should ever underestimate your ability to have an impact" in government.