NIH funding in the spotlight of budget talks
Friday, May 05, 2017
As long-term federal budget talks continue, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has found itself in the middle of the battle.
In an attempt to balance the federal budget and eliminate the budget deficit over a period of eight years, President Donald Trump had proposed to cut the NIH budget by 20 percent, or $5.8 billion. However, in a last-minute agreement, the members of the House of Representatives struck a deal for the Labor HHS Appropriations Bill that will provide a $2 billion increase to NIH funding.
The NIH is the largest biomedical research agency in the world. Their overall mission is to improve health, contribute to society and expand biological knowledge base. They invest more than $30 billion in taxpayer money to meet these missions and goals.
With such extensive funding, every state and almost every Congressional district is affected by any potential cuts. This far-reaching effect puts the NIH front and center for any budgetary cuts, affecting all parties involved and making it fertile ground for negotiations.
Some areas targeted for increased funding through the NIH are:
Alzheimer's research — With 14 million Americans expected to be stricken with dementia by 2050, the search for treatment and cures continues. However, only the government has historically been able to adequately fund basic research as the challenging odds with little payoff have kept the private sector at bay.
National Cancer Institute — This agency runs the Cancer Moonshot program to accelerate cancer research, which was funded for over 7 years by Congress in 2016.
Precision Medicine Initiative — This group aims to recruit volunteers for continued genetic testing and health tracking in the hopes of directing research to more individualized treatment.
BRAIN Initiative — This program will continue to be funded for its goal of fully mapping the human brain.
Combat Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria — This initiative will receive increased funding to assist in the continued research on how microbes develop resistance and faster diagnostics.
NIH funding gained national attention this week as Jimmy Kimmel discussed his recent experience as a parent whose newborn infant needed emergency open-heart surgery at Children's Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA). He pointed out how national funding continues to push medicine forward, and lives are affected and saved through their efforts. CHLA, a leader among pediatric care, receives millions of dollars from the NIH to support their continued research and training.
The NIH was not the only health-related area reaping the benefits of the agreement. In an effort to fight opioid abuse, $801 million — an increase of $650 million or 430 percent — will be slated for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other programs.
Other areas that will see increases in funding through 2017 include:
- Community health centers
- Rural health programs in Preventive Health and Health Services (PHHS) Block Grant
- Mental health programs in SAMHSA and HRSA
- Suicide prevention
- Children's health in Head Start
- Public health preparedness and response
Although the deal reached does not cover the 2018 budget, it certainly sets a precedent and tone for future negotiations.
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