Washington, DC (NAPSI) - Each year in theUnited States, nearly 16,000 kids are diagnosed with cancer. And on any given day, as many as 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease. Beyond its debilitating symptoms, the death rate for Alzheimer’s is on the rise.

But there are steps you can take to protect your family from these potentially devastating medical conditions.

One idea that may come as a surprise to many Americans is to contact your congressional representatives and the candidates for their seats.

That’s the suggestion of a national, nonpartisan, voter education initiative called “Ask Your Candidates!” designed to empower voters to talk to candidates about the future of medical progress in the United States. Congress plays a key role in influencing the future of lifesaving research. Many voters are asking candidates if, once elected, they will vote to increase federal funding for medical research and support policies that spur innovation.

The initiative helps voters engage candidates on social media and through local events, grassroots, advertising and other interactive projects. Launched by Research!America, the nation’s largest nonprofit public education and advocacy alliance working to make research to improve health a higher national priority, Ask Your Candidates! illuminates the crux of the issue: Federal funding for medical research is lower today than it was in 2010, and Congress has the authority to set future funding levels.

According to polling commissioned by Research!America, more than 60 percent of Americans believe candidates should assign a high priority to funding for medical research—and with good reason.

What The Researchers Do

Research—conducted at universities, research institutions and government agencies—lays the groundwork for treatments and cures for diseases from cancer to Alzheimer’s to diabetes and many others.

Such research has, among many other things:

• Cut in half the death rate from childhood and adolescent cancer between 1975 and 2010.

• Restored mobility to wounded warriors and those with a disabling condition, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

• Dramatically reduced deaths from heart disease by nearly a third between 2000 and 2010.

• Saved our economy more than $21 in direct medical costs for every dollar spent on the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine.

What You Can Do

Voters can communicate with their candidates by visiting to find out whether they will assign a high priority to medical research.