MedCity News eNewsletter

#Act4NIH: Social media push underway to restore research funding at NIH

Supporters of National Institutes of Health research are following the lead of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge – they just turned to social media to try and get the general public jazzed about increasing federal funding for medical research. The materials and methods are a touch more staid, however – no ice water and wet T-shirts required. The Act for NIH: […]

Supporters of National Institutes of Health research are following the lead of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge – they just turned to social media to try and get the general public jazzed about increasing federal funding for medical research.

The materials and methods are a touch more staid, however – no ice water and wet T-shirts required. The Act for NIH: Advancing Cures Today campaign solicits researchers and patients to share their stories and post photos of themselves online with a sign advocating their cause of choice.

The photo will get posted on actfornih.org – an organization that’s actually separate from the NIH but run by Pat White, a former NIH Associate Director for Legislative Policy and Analysis. The hashtag attached to this social media push is #Act4NIH.

This campaign comes with good reason:

The NIH receives about 25 percent less funding than it did in 2003; best case scenario even then was that one in three NIH proposals was funded, the government agency says. But now, that rate’s dropped to one in six, or in some research areas, one in 10. And the U.S. is losing its lead in the R&D game:

The booms and busts in NIH funding are threatening a lot of important research – as illustrated in a compelling NPR report earlier this month.

The NIH has provided a slew of fun facts that illustrate the importance of this cause:

-The NIH directly supports more than 400,000 jobs across the country, and every $1 of NIH funding generates more than double that in local economic growth.

-NIH-funded research has led to a number of critical research breakthroughs, such as developing cancer immunotherapy agents and mapping out the human genome.

-Thanks to funding cuts, more than half of 3,700 prominent researchers surveyed had to layoff minions due to funding cuts, according to a 2013 survey. The same year, the NIH funded 752 fewer research proposals thanks to sequestration.

“The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge garnered a great deal of attention and even with the contributions flowing in from the social media sensation, it’s not even the tip of the iceberg in terms of real dollars that can move the needle on advancing a cure,” a spokeswoman for the NIH campaign wrote in an email. “Act4NIH will have a robust social media campaign as well and it will be commensurate with the bold ‘ask’ of a Congress that with myriad choices, can only appropriate limited funds.”