Public Health Gets a Nod in SOTU

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By Tiffany Kaszuba, Vice President

Last week, the President gave his final State of the Union Address kicking off the last 372 days of his Administration. While many expected the President to use the speech to recap his accomplishments over the last seven years, he instead gave his vision for the future of America beyond his term in office and let the country know he is not throwing in the towel in the last year of his presidency.

Public health advocates had a lot to cheer about during the SOTU, including a new "moonshot" effort to cure cancer which will be led by Vice President Joe Biden. Obama told the country:

"Last year, Vice President Biden said that with a new moonshot, America can cure cancer.  Last month, he worked with this Congress to give scientists at the National Institutes of Health the strongest resources they've had in over a decade.  Tonight, I'm announcing a new national effort to get it done.  And because he's gone to the mat for all of us, on so many issues over the past forty years, I'm putting Joe in charge of Mission Control.  For the loved ones we've all lost, for the family we can still save, let's make America the country that cures cancer once and for all." 

The President did not leave it at that though. Several other public health causes will see the President's attention in the final days of his presidency. In fact, Obama specifically mentioned the fight against prescription drug abuse and, though it wasn't in his prepared remarks, heroin abuse was raised in the context of seeking common ground. He said:

"So I hope we can work together this year on bipartisan priorities like criminal justice reform, and helping people who are battling prescription drug abuse and heroin abuse." 

President Obama also drew attention to the importance of prevention, including how our contributions to the health of peoples around the world ultimately protect our own nation from outbreaks. He explained:

When we help African countries feed their people and care for the sick,that prevents the next pandemic from reaching our shores. Right now, we are on track to end the scourge of HIV/AIDS, and we have the capacity to accomplish the same thing with malaria — something I’ll be pushing this Congress to fund this year.

Precision medicine also got a shout out from the President.

With just one year left in his Presidency, it appears Obama will continue with his commitment to health care, research and disease prevention--and he isn’t slowing down any time soon. Dennis McDonough, his Chief of Staff, validated his commitment to progress in his final days in a new blog post on the White House website. He writes:

"In all my years working for President Obama, I've never seen him so optimistic and excited. There may not be any more State of the Union addresses to deliver, but there are 372 more days to deliver on behalf of the American people."

The full text of the SOTU is available here. Advocates interested in the moonshot should also check out this link where Americans can share their stories about how cancer has touched their lives and Vice President Biden's article on the initiative here

Lisa Ellington

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