November 16th, 2013
A Critical Time for Health Research?
Several Cardiology Fellows who are attending AHA.13 in Dallas this week are blogging for CardioExchange. The Fellows include Vimal Ramjee, Siqin Ye, Seth Martin, Reva Balakrishnan, and Saurav Chatterjee. You can read the next fellowship post here. For more of our AHA.13 coverage of late-breaking clinical trials, interviews with the authors of the most important research, and blogs from our fellows on the most interesting presentations at the meeting, check out our AHA.13 Headquarters.
I’m excited to be part of the blogging team for CardioExchange’s coverage of the American Heart Association 2013 Scientific Sessions!
On my flight to Dallas this morning, as is my habit, I caught up on the stack of magazines and journals that were accumulating on my desk. As it happens, one of them was this week’s JAMA special issue, “Critical Issues in US Health Care.”
The articles inside were riveting. In a Viewpoint piece, “Toward a New Social Compact for Health Research,” Dr. Harvey Fineberg talks about the retrenchment of US investment in health research, as evidenced by declining NIH and overall funding in the last decade. In a separate Viewpoint, Dr. Donald Berwick discusses the “toxic politics” of healthcare. “Public trust in science is eroding”, he points out, while healthcare professions have largely been silent and have not vigorously advocated for needed reforms.
I think Dr. Berwick’s points also apply to the pressures faced by health researchers. Many of us engage in research because we believe that the advancement of medical science is a worthwhile pursuit and a societal good. But we don’t do a good job advocating for our beliefs in the public arena, so that there are far more members of Congress willing to fight against cuts in fighter plane orders than those who fight against cuts in the NIH budget. On this point, Dr. Fineberg writes:
“Perhaps no young physician scientists embark on a research career thinking it is a position in sales, but they quickly learn how necessary it is to convince others of the value and promise of their own research ideas. Today, it is equally important for health researchers to gain public confidence and trust in the value and promise of the whole of the scientific research enterprise for health.”
In my mind, this process of engaging the public can start with small steps: sharing on my Facebook feed an article debunking anti-vaccination myths, or, as my research shop has decided to do, prominently displaying the NIH logo on our posters and presentations. As I explore the scientific offerings at this year’s AHA meeting, I am also excited to see the AHA exploring new ways to engage the public, such as the mobile app that allows attendees to easily share the sessions they find interesting on social media.
But I also wonder about what more we can do. For instance, the American College of Cardiology recently added an “Ask-An-Expert” feature to their patient website to directly connect the public to ACC members. This inspired me to wonder: what if we also built an “Ask-A-Researcher” forum, featuring prominent researchers taking questions directly from the general public, similar to a Reddit AMA?
What do you think? How can we, as researchers and healthcare professionals, better engage the public?