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Last month, as part of World Glaucoma Week, the National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (AEVR) held its 2017 congressional briefing: Translating Glaucoma Therapy from Bench to Bedside. Participating organizations including the American Glaucoma Society, the Optometric Glaucoma Society, and Glaucoma Research Foundation showcased the latest and most promising research in an effort to maintain federal funding for glaucoma research.
As a participant in the fight against glaucoma, and especially in the face of proposed budget cuts to the National Institute of Health (NIH) over the next two years, you might be asking yourself why federal funding is important and what you can do to help ensure that medical researchers—and the patients they represent—are supported.
The importance of funding for medical research can’t be overstated. A major funding source for this work is the U.S. government, through the National Eye Institute, which is part of NIH. Without it, even basic glaucoma research couldn’t be done.
With the fate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and National Institutes of Health funding still in question, lobbying efforts like this year’s congressional briefing have taken on added meaning. The current administration recently requested budget cuts to NIH in fiscal years 2017-18. These proposed cuts would slash NIH research and Institutional Development Award grants by more than $1.2 billion for the remainder of this year. In 2018, the proposed cuts would amount to $5.8 billion, roughly 20% of NIH’s budget.
“Health care should be first and foremost about providing the highest quality of care for patients. This requires an environment that fosters greater innovation and more medical breakthroughs,” said Rep. Diana DeGette (CO-1), Chief Deputy Whip and an attendee at the event. She reiterated that for these sorts of innovations to bear fruit, NIH must be properly funded and receive the support it both needs and deserves. “The search for cures must be a non-partisan, all-hands-on-deck effort. Tragic diseases don’t just affect Republicans, nor do they just affect Democrats. They touch all of our lives.”1
It is important to realize that nothing in life is free, and that fighting for something makes us cherish it even more. There are plenty of ways to make a difference and fight for glaucoma funding, as long as people are willing to step up and make their voices heard.
The organizers of this year’s congressional briefing made a difference by gathering experts and legislators together in a show of support for glaucoma researchers and the patients they aim to help. They also discussed a new concept called “Guided Administration of Pharmaceuticals” or “GAP” Therapy, in which breakthroughs are patient-independent, physician-administered and monitored, as safe or safer than previous therapies, of long-duration or efficacy, are repeatable for lifetime of the patient, and sustain 100% adherence.2 Setting goals like these, which will help ensure new discoveries’ success, are key when asking for funding.
You’ve probably been encouraged to contact your representative throughout this last election, and phone calls are the most effective way to make your voice heard in Washington D.C.3 In this case, if you are worried about the NIH budget cuts and their effect on future research, you might want to contact the members of the Health subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, the committee that has funding authority over the NIH.4
Republican MembersMichael Burgess (Texas - 26) - Chairman
Democratic MembersGene Green (Texas - 29) - Ranking Member
Perhaps the most immediate and effective way to contribute to continued research is to donate money yourself. By identifying organizations that are dedicated to funding scientists and researchers in the lab, and by committing to a one time or monthly donation, you can support not only the research itself, but those who will one day benefit from it.
Glaucoma Research Foundation grants help make significant breakthroughs in glaucoma research, treatment, and prevention possible. Funding for these grants, however, depends on your generosity. Donate today to help make a difference in the fight against glaucoma.
1 "Drastic Cuts to NIH Would Hamper Progress in Finding Cures." Congresswoman Diana DeGette, degette.house.gov/media-center/in-the-news/drastic-cuts-to-nih-would-hamper-progress-in-finding-cures. Accessed 19 Apr. 2017.
2 "The National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research." The National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research, www.eyeresearch.org/naevr_action/World_Glaucoma_Day_2017.html. Accessed 19 Apr. 2017.
3 Victor, Daniel. “Here’s Why You Should Call, Not Email, Your Legislators.” The New York Times, 22 Nov. 2016. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/22/us/politics/heres-why-you-should-call-not-email-your-legislators.html. Accessed 21 Apr. 2017.
4 "Health (115th Congress)." Energy and Commerce Committee, energycommerce.house.gov/subcommittees/health-115th-congress. Accessed 19 Apr. 2017.
Last reviewed on April 25, 2017