This year’s Annual Research Meeting (ARM) hosted the inaugural meeting of AcademyHealth’s newest Interest Group (IG), the Advocacy IG. Unique in its focus on the cultivation of a grassroots community, the Advocacy IG is intended to bring together powerful, dynamic “voices of health services research” and use those voices in a way that benefits the field of HSR. The inaugural meeting provided attendees with an overview of AcademyHealth’s advocacy goals and the IG’s intended role, gave an impression of the current policy environment, and opened the floor for an interactive discussion about how to make the IG effective and appealing to AcademyHealth members and policymakers. In a time of political uncertainty, advocacy for health services research is more important than ever. As AcademyHealth President and CEO Lisa Simpson said during her opening remarks, “It is when there is silence that issues face their greatest threat.” That is why both the producers and users of health services research need to act as the voice of the field—to convey the significance of this research and to define its place in policy. Funding for health services research is currently in survival mode. On average, funding for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has been reduced by 5 percent since fiscal year 2010, but funding levels within HHS have varied among the different agencies. For example, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has been relatively flat funded, whereas the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has had its base budget cut by roughly 8 percent since FY10. The retention of relative funding levels largely has to do with alternative funding sources, namely the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Transfer and the Prevention and Public Health Fund established by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The implications of the Supreme Court ruling, which was discussed on our blog last week, could significantly impact these funding streams, resulting in a ripple effect for the agencies’ core activities. In addition to implications from the SCOTUS ruling, the field also faces a threat from a budgetary tool known as sequestration, which would result in across-the-board spending cuts ranging anywhere from 8 to 12 percent. With the exception of a few programs such as Social Security, Medicaid, and low-income support programs, everything will experience cuts and would be equally distributed between defense and non-defense programs. The research and policy communities need to unite to avert sequestration and prevent any further damage to the field. In order to do this, Members of Congress need to hear directly from their constituents, both about what research is being conducted in their home state and how many constituents are employed in an HSR capacity. To be relevant in today’s policy environment, advocates also need to convey to their legislators that: 1) a sequester is unacceptable, 2) research is an important, core function of government, and 3) a balanced approach to deficit reduction is needed. AcademyHealth is eager to further engage our members in advocacy for the field. With the Advocacy IG being unique to the organization, we are seeking input from our members about how to make this IG as successful as possible. We value any input about what our members hope to gain from the IG, the types of activities the IG should organize, and how we can use the IG to help researchers leverage their studies. If you have any contributions for the function of the Advocacy IG, please email Lindsey Horan at or Emily Holubowich at  

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