Meso Foundation Executive Director Kathy Wiedemer Visits Capitol Hill

The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation executive director Kathy Wiedemer spent the day on March 16, 2011 educating Congressional staffers about mesothelioma and the dire need for research funding to find a cure.  The visits targeted congressional districts with high levels of asbestos exposure and included the following offices:

Senator Max Baucus (D-MT)

Senator Jon Tester (D- MT)

Congressman Denny Rehberg (R-MT)

Congressman Norm Dicks (D-WA)

Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz (D-PA)

Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN)

Ms. Wiedemer educated staffers about the devastating effect of Mesothelioma, and urged legislators to sustain vital funding to the agencies that fund meso research, including the National Institutes for Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Defense.  We advocated for the crucial agencies and asked for additional funding in Fiscal Year 2012.  Our contacts let us know that many legislators are being very protective of direct grant funding for research and will do their best to defend those funds.

Meso Foundation staff meet with Congresswoman Betty McCollum, sponsor of the 111th Congressional Resolution designating September 26 as Mesothelioma Awareness Day. From Left to Right: Government Affairs Coordinator Jessica Barker, Congresswoman Betty McCollum and Executive Director Kathy Wiedemer.

Of greater concern is the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP), which may or may not be considered an earmark.  With the current efforts to curtail spending, the Republican majority in the House is drawing a hard line on earmarks and making great strides to abolish earmarks all together.  The definition of an earmark has been hard to pin down at this point, so it is unclear if the CDMRP will fall into the earmark category.  Earmarks are a very small part of the federal budget, but they have become a powerful symbol, particularly for Republicans, of the culture of government spending.

Mesothelioma has been named a program of interest in the peer-reviewed medical research program in the CDMRP and provides critical funding for Mesothelioma research.  It is of utmost importance that the Department of Defense funds Mesothelioma research as an estimated one third of meso patients were exposed on Navy Ships and on Navy shipyards.  We will continue to watch closely and advocate to increase funding to the CDMRP.

March 2011 Advocacy Updates

The Meso Foundation staff has been hard at work in their new location in the Washington DC area raising awareness about mesothelioma and advocating for research funding and a ban on asbestos.

On February 18, Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester of Montana introduced a resolution designating the first week of April as “National Asbestos Awareness Week.”  The Meso Foundation sent a letter thanking Senators Baucus and Tester for their introduction and emphasized the importance of funding meso research to find a cure for this disease.

The Meso Foundation also participated in a survey by the National Health Council Survey on the federal budget process to inform the National Health Council’s development of public testimony to be submitted to the Senate on the importance of sustaining funding of the agencies housed within the US Department of Health and Human Services.  The House has not confirmed how they will be accepting testimony, but the National Health Council will submit testimony there as well when possible.

The Meso Foundation recently sent an action alert for community members to contact their legislators urging members of Congress to sustain funding for the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP) through the Department of Defense.  Mesothelioma has been named a program of interest thanks to the advocacy of the Meso Foundation community.    Over 300 members of the Meso Foundation community have already taken action!  The Action Alert is still available on the Meso Foundation website, please click here to take action if you have not already!