By Chris Pirschel, Staff Writer, and Alec Stone, ONS Public Affairs Director, and Donna Sweeney, ONS Director of Government Affairs

Key Funding Increases for Cancer Research, Nursing, Public Health

Racing against the clock to ensure the government stayed funded through September 2018, President Trump signed the Consolidation Appropriations Act, a $1.3 trillion spending bill that includes funding for a number of key nursing and public health initiatives. The bill, which had made its way through the House of Representatives and the Senate last week, also contains new clarifying language for the Dickey Amendment, ending a 22-year ban on government-funded gun violence research. ONS joined the Nursing Community Coalition—led in part by the efforts of the American Nurses Association—to support evidence-based inquiry into gun violence and its potential impacts on public health.

The 2018 spending bill also increases funding for the Health Resources and Services Administration Title VIII nursing workforce development programs to $249 million, a $20 million increase from 2017. Funding was increased by $7.8 million for the National Institute of Nursing Research to a total of $158 million. Congress also provided the largest increase in funding for the National Institutes of Health in nearly 15 years. The agency received a $3 billion increase from 2017, including $575 million earmarked for the National Cancer Institute.

Patients, Providers, or Politicians: Whose Choices Matter Most?

The newly formed Conscience and Religious Freedom division of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) office of civil rights aims to “restore federal enforcement of our nation’s laws that protect the fundamental and unalienable rights of conscience and religious freedom.” According to reports, the division would allow healthcare providers to withhold information from patients related to procedures and treatments a provider objects to performing, based on her or his religious or conscientious objections. Patient-advocacy groups worry this division threatens patient autonomy and healthcare decisions.

Regardless of opinions regarding the separation of church and state, this HHS division blurs the line a bit. Patients, not the government nor healthcare providers, should have the commanding say in their own health care. ONS advocates for patient-centered care, a tenet central to nursing, and it’s one of the many reasons nurses are the most trusted professionals in the country. Putting patients first and finding treatments that match their individual needs is paramount to successful care, which means something different for every patient.

FDA Targets Flavored Tobacco Products

In an effort to help curb potential future smokers, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is focusing on the impact of flavored tobacco products on young adults. The agency has called on all stakeholders to provide data, existing research, and additional information regarding the impact of flavored tobacco products. According to FDA reports, young smokers responded that flavor choice was one of the reasons they started smoking.

It’s been years since the FDA—or any government agency—has put tobacco cessation at the top of its public health list. FDA Commissioner Gottlieb has been doing just that for the past 10 months, and his latest manifesto rededicates the agency’s leadership on restricting access to and marketing of tobacco, especially for children. He’s not letting the tobacco industry get away with anything. It’s encouraging to see this commitment to tobacco regulation. ONS continues to work with the FDA and other government agencies on tobacco cessation issues. Lawmakers and agency officials welcome the trusted voice of oncology nurses to provide education and expertise to key health issues.

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