Michiganders would pay higher taxes for research funding

By Sally Pobojewski
Health System Public Relations

Medical research is important to Michigan's future, because it creates jobs and boosts residents' incomes, according to 90 percent of Michigan residents polled in a recent survey.

The telephone poll of 800 Michigan adults also indicated that a majority believe clinical research to be especially valuable and 59 percent said they would be willing to volunteer to participate in a clinical trial or research study. Eighty-six percent of those surveyed believe they receive more value for federal tax dollars spent on medical research than on any other federally funded program.

The poll was commissioned by Research!America--a non-profit national advocacy group supporting health and medical research. Major funding for the survey was provided by the Health System.

"In the United States this year, we will spend $1 trillion on health care," said Gilbert S. Omenn, executive vice president of medical affairs chief executive officer for the Health System. "Between 20 percent to 30 percent of that amount represents costs of treating diseases where the underlying cause is still unknown--diseases like most cancers, mental illness, neurodegenerative conditions and rheumatoid arthritis.

"Michigan taxpayers receive a three-fold return on their investment in biomedical research," Omenn added. "First it allows researchers to do more to help people today. By supporting scientists working to find the causes and effective treatments for these devastating diseases, it could help even more people tomorrow. And it brings new jobs and businesses to the state, which benefits the local economy."

Other findings from the poll in Michigan, which was part of a multi-state survey, include:

• Fifty-six percent of Michigan residents support a proposal to double government funding for medical research over the next five years. A majority indicate they would be willing to pay more for prescription medications, health care insurance and taxes if the money were used to support medical research. Sixty-three percent favor a tax increase of $l.50 per pack of cigarettes, if a portion of the additional taxes were used to fund medical research.

• Michigan citizens are especially concerned about AIDS, cancer and incurable diseases. They want more information on costs, methods and results of medical research. Sixty-eight percent say the media are not giving enough attention to medical research.

• Eighty-two percent believe the federal government should support basic science research, even if it brings no immediate benefits.

• Eighty-eight percent approve of federal government support for scientific research at universities.

• More than two-thirds of Michigan citizens believe the use of animals in medical research is necessary and 61 percent think gene therapy research should continue.

"It is particularly gratifying to see this level of support in Michigan for basic science and animal research," said Irwin J. Goldstein, Medical School associate dean for research and graduate studies. "Basic science is the bedrock of clinical research. While the applications of basic science are not always immediately apparent, it gives scientists new understanding of the fundamental mechanisms of life that often leads to important advances in medicine."

Additional funding for the study was provided by Wayne State University and Henry Ford Health System.

The study was designed by Research!America in consultation with Louis Harris & Associates and conducted by Charlton Research Co. The telephone surveys of Michigan residents were conducted in February and March.