Psychologists join nearly 300 on Capitol Hill to advocate for NIH

On September 17, 2015, representatives from the American Psychological Association (APA) were among nearly 300 researchers, medical professionals and patient advocates who gathered in Washington, DC, for the Rally for Medical Research advocacy day.  Their goal was to deliver a strong message to Congress about the importance of funding the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  

Through visits to 250 Senate and House offices, the Rally participants requested that Congress: 1) provide “robust, sustained and predictable” funding increases for the NIH; 2) agree on a new budget framework (e.g., ending sequestration, raising spending caps) that supports stronger investment in NIH; and 3) explore innovative ways to increase the NIH budget (e.g., through mandatory funding as included in the House 21st Century Cures Act). 

APA sponsored two NIH-funded psychologists, Maria Wong, a professor at Idaho State University, whose work is funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and Ashley Knapp, a graduate student at the University of Arkansas who is funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, to join the Rally. 

Both psychologists discussed details of their research with their members of Congress and provided concrete examples of NIH investments taking place in those members’ states and districts.  Wong shared her research on the relationship between sleep problems in childhood and substance use during adolescence with her Idaho representatives: Rep. Mike Simpson, Sen. Mike Crapo and Sen. Jim Risch.  And Knapp met with her Arkansas representatives -- Rep. Steve Womack, Rep. French Hill, Sen. John Boozman and Sen. Tom Cotton -- to describe her research testing a brief parent-implemented intervention for adolescent anxiety.  Reps. Simpson and. Womack are both majority members of the House Appropriations Labor-Health and Human Services (Labor-HHS) Subcommittee that has jurisdiction over NIH. 

Knapp described her experience: “The meetings were an excellent opportunity for me to articulate my research and ‘asks’ in a straightforward, non-jargon fashion. Representative Womack was even kind enough to take our team on a tour of the Capitol, including a visit to the Speaker’s balcony [overlooking the National Mall]!”

See the APA Science Advocacy Blog for an update on the federal budget and soon, more from Wong and Knapp about their experiences on Capitol Hill.