President Donald Trump has proposed slashing the National Institutes of Health budget by $1.2 billion by next Tuesday. Earlier this month, Trump suggested cutting the NIH’s budget for next year by 20 percent, but the $1.2 billion cut would go into effect almost immediately, if approved.
The NIH is an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services that not only conducts its own medical research, but is the biggest source of funding for medical research worldwide. The NIH and its projects have made countless biomedical achievements that have helped Americans live longer, healthier, and better lives.
The life expectancy for the average American was 70.8 years in 1970. More than 40 years later, in 2013, it grew to 78.8 years, according to the CDC. Over that time period, the death rate also fell by 43 percent, according to 2015 JAMA research. In 1969, 1,279 of every 100,000 Americans died. In 2013, only 730 of every 100,000 did.
The mortality rate for American infants has decreased over the last 40 years, according to the CDC. In 1960, 26 of every 1,000 American babies passed away in their first year of life. In 2013, that rate dropped to 6 of every 1,000 babies. Why? NIH researchers studied reducing complications like premature births and neonatal mortality.
Since the mid-1990s, the number of children who contract HIV perinatally has decreased by more than 90 percent, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (a branch of the NIH). That’s because the agency’s research pushed medical providers to implement preventive measures like HIV testing. NIH-funded research has also helped lupus patients understand when they’re at risk for pregnancy complications, according to 2016 Lupus Science & Medicine data.
NIH research has contributed to the development of life-saving treatment for people who have overdosed. Between 1996 and 2014, more than 26,000 opiate overdoses were reversed using one of these treatments, according to NIDA. And NIH-funded researchers worked with pharmaceutical providers to create a drug to treat opioid addiction, according to NIDA.
Though diabetes has become more prevalent among Americans, the deaths from the condition fell by 16.5 percent between 1969 and 2013, according to 2015 JAMA research. Heart attacks from the disease decreased by 68 percent between 1990 and 2010. Diabetes-induced strokes decreased by 53 percent over the same time period, according to 2014 New England Journal of Medicine data. And the death rate for strokes (from diabetes or otherwise) has decreased by 79 percent since 1950, according to the CDC.
The heart disease death rate declined by 67.5 percent between 1969 and 2013—due in part to NIH research that established risk factors of the condition, according to 2015 JAMA research.
Cancer death rates have steadily declined over time—by about 1.5 percent each year. (The breast cancer mortality rate has declined by even more than that—by about 2 percent each year, according to the National Cancer Institute.) And improvements in cancer treatment and prevention led to about 1.7 million fewer people dying between 1991 and 2012, according to the American Cancer Society.
NIH research also aids in the development of new cancer treatments—like immunotherapy, which help patients fight the disease by using their own immune systems, according to the National Cancer Institute.
NIH-backed improvements in vaccinations have also saved the lives of many Americans. The hepatitis A vaccine has decreased rates of the disease by 92 percent since 1995, according to the Intramural Research Program (a branch of the NIH). Vaccinations have also brought the rate of hepatitis B down by 80 percent since 1980, according to the CDC. And rates of Hib—formerly the primary cause of pediatric bacterial meningitis—have dropped by more than 99 percent since a vaccine was invented, according to the CDC.
The rates of alcohol use and daily cigarette use among adolescents are the lowest they’ve been since 1975, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). This is thanks, at least in part, to NIH research about risk factors for teenage substance use.
HIV/AIDS treatments have improved significantly since the 1980s. Then, it was common for people with HIV/AIDS to only live a few years after contracting the infection. Now, someone who is HIV-positive can expect to live to age 70—which is just a few years shy of the average life expectancy for an American adult without HIV/AIDS (about 78.8 years), according to 2013 PLOS research.
The mortality rate from motor accidents decreased by 39 percent between 1990 and 2010, according to the CDC. And the death rate from injuries sustained during any kind of accident dropped by nearly 40 percent between 1969 and 2013, according to 2015 JAMA research.
Treatments for burn survivors have also improved. In the ’70s, people who sustained burns covering just 25 percent of their bodies almost always died. Now, people with burns covering up to 90 percent of their bodies typically survive, according to the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (a branch of the NIH).
NIH research has contributed to some major strides in medical advancement, including:
Feeling motivated to act? There are plenty of ways to make your voice heard. SELF’s resources on finding activist opportunities and getting involved in policy decisions are great places to start. If you’re passionate about women’s access to reproductive health care, you can also consider: donating to the Center for Reproductive Rights, volunteering for NARAL Pro-Choice America, donating to the Reproductive Health Access Project, or volunteering for Planned Parenthood. Other organizations can help families in need access affordable childcare, job training, and much-needed food and household supplies.
Also: 7 Ways You Didn’t Know Obamacare Affected Your Daily Life
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