While those of us here in Washington D.C. are very, very, aware of what the sequester is and how it hurts, for millions of Americans it is just another big word thrown around Capitol Hill that has no affect on their lives. That misconception is about to change very soon, as sequester budget cuts on the National Institutes of Health are having a dramatic impact on research funding, and thus American health as a whole.
This year alone NIH, which is the primary source of federal funding for public health research, has been forced to cut $1.7 billion from its budget. The real impact of this is the reduction in the size of grants being awarded, as well as the elimination of some research projects all together.
During the Bush years, funding NIH became a priority for the administration, ballooning to $30.8 billion by the time Barack Obama took office in 2008. This year, funding has been reduced to $29.1 billion. While this still may seem large, scientists across the country are terrified at the impact these cuts will make on their research, which may be on the verge of a major medical breakthrough. As a wonderful piece from Sam Stein at the Huffington Post points out, “without more investment, the nation’s role as an international leader in scientific research is at risk. Moreover, the money being cut now will have lasting damage, both economic and medical, as cures to diseases are left undiscovered and treatments left unearthed.”
NIH is not the only government agency involved in health research that is being forced to cut back due to the sequester. The American Association for the Advancement of Science is cutting $9.3 billion in research funding and the Department of Defense, which also awards research grants, is cutting $6.4 billion.
As money for scientific study dries up, the number of people entering the science research field are diminishing as well. Promising young medical health professionals from around the globe that used to flock to the United States to conduct their research are now choosing to go elsewhere to ensure they are able to receive funding for their research.
The work the NIH does is bipartisan in nature and has a very real impact on people around the world. Just this past week the institutions have announced that they have successfully tested a vaccine for malaria, a tropical disease that claims the lives of one million people every year. Below is a slideshow of some of the other medical breakthroughs that have been made thanks to NIH funding in the past four years alone. Please let us know in our comments section why you believe NIH funding should or should not be a priority for Congress.