In an article written in the Washington Post on Friday, December 15, it was reported that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was told not to use specific words in their Fiscal Year 2019 budget request to be sent to the Office of Management and Budget. Among this list of seven ‘forbidden’ words was evidence-based and science-based.
It is unclear what the reasoning is for the inclusion of those specific words on the list but just the notion that we don’t want our policies and funding decisions to be based in evidence or science flies in the face of both common sense and the movement that has been underway for a number of years now to make our federal policy-making process more evidence-based. In fact, making government more effective is a bipartisan idea that both Republican- and Democratic-led Administrations and Congresses have embraced in various forms through the years. This bipartisan approach to policy and funding decision-making has resulted in the authorization of the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program, the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, and the Social Innovation Fund; funding for the Workforce Innovation Fund and Education Innovation and Research program; and, the emphasis on data and results in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and the Every Student Succeeds Act—which included the word evidence-based 54 times.
When searching legislation introduced just in this first session of the 115th Congress, you will find a number of examples of legislation explicitly using the word evidence or evidence-based in its title to describe the focus of the legislation. These examples can found in issue areas ranging from veterans benefits to substance abuse and telehealth to welfare assistance. Additionally, a number of other pieces of legislation include a focus on evidence-based interventions and programming within the context of the bill itself. Lastly, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) supported Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking recently completed its work and the 15 member commission unanimously issued their recommendations for how to establish a more secure, transparent, and efficient data system to improve the federal government’s use of data to solve problems and improve people’s lives. At the release of the Commission’s report in September, Speaker Ryan noted, “Ensuring our programs work is just common sense—and what American taxpayers deserve.” Senator Murray echoed that sentiment by arguing that, “No matter what side of the aisle you’re on, we should all agree that government should work as effectively as possible for the people it serves.” The work of this commission has already resulted in legislative action on some of the commission’s findings, which too has been widely supported by members of both parties.
At America Forward, we believe that innovation and evidence are needed to more effectively address our country’s most pressing social problems. There are many challenges that we face as a nation that seem intractable, yet imperative that we find a way to address to ensure the best possible life for children, youth and adults in communities across this country. To do this, we must bring a greater focus to using evidence to drive what our government funds by resourcing solutions that can more efficiently and effectively steward our limited taxpayer dollars to measurably improve the lives of all Americans.
Our Coalition of some 70 social innovation organizations hold themselves to high standards and are measuring their results and we expect our policymakers to do the same. To do otherwise not only fails to appreciate the bipartisan movement that is already underway to make our policy-making processes more evidence-based but more importantly continues the status quo of government funding the same ineffective programs costing taxpayers billions of dollars and undermining the potential of the people who the programs are intended to help.
Read examples of evidence in action from our coalition members and network partners in our #EvidenceinAction series.
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