Medical research funding cuts could be hazardous to America's health

By LOUIS W. SULLIVAN – Posted: 3:00am on Feb 23, 2012; Modified: 8:10am on Feb 23, 2012

President Obama’s budget recommendation to freeze funding for the National Institutes of Health is shortsighted.

The NIH is the largest supporter of medical research in the world. But with a frozen budget, the research that could reduce chronic diseases disproportionately affecting minority populations will slow considerably.

This year alone, more than half a million Americans will die from heart disease. Black men are 30 percent more likely to die of heart disease than white men, and African-Americans are 50 percent more likely than whites to have a stroke. Black men are also nearly 10 times more likely to die of AIDS than white men.

African-American women are diagnosed less frequently with breast cancer than white women but are 36 percent more likely to die of the disease.

The prevalence of diabetes in blacks and Hispanics is roughly double that of whites, and Hispanics have higher rates of obesity than non-Hispanic whites.

These statistics demonstrate some of the gaping health disparities in the United States that must be addressed.

Fortunately, the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, part of the NIH, has been established to conduct lifesaving research throughout the country to help close these gaps. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality also studies relevant issues, including barriers to accessing health care. This diversity of research is critical to reducing premature deaths and preventable disabilities among minority populations. Read more