This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Did you know that between 1900 and 2000 the average life expectancy in the U.S. increased from 44 years to 77? Or that the five-year survival rate for childhood cancer patients with acute lymphocytic leukemia in 1960 was less than 10 percent and is now almost 90 percent?
These advancements in medicine and child health are directly linked to research funded by the National Institutes of Health. As a pediatrician and researcher at the University of Utah, I can personally attest to the vital roles such research has played in benefiting my patients and their families
Throughout my career, NIH funding has been instrumental in helping me to develop new knowledge that can be translated into better health care options for infants and children. I've watched my colleagues and other clinician researchers in Utah make important research discoveries through NIH-funded projects that have uncovered genetic causes for breast, ovarian and colon cancers and introduced new therapies for each.
The continuation of important advancements through NIH-funded research, however, is at a crossroads. The NIH budget hasn't been able to keep pace with biomedical inflation over the past decade, a reality that has resulted in a 22 percent decline in revenue since 2003. Put simply, that means there are fewer dollars being devoted to research that could one day result in treatments and cures for a host of diseases that many families struggle with today.
Congress has a chance to correct that course and to help secure the future for research funding . Legislators will soon consider passing the FY 2015 Labor-HHS spending bill to restore sequestration cuts to the NIH. Restoration will allow the valuable research conducted by medical schools, including the University of Utah School of Medicine, to continue. Predictable federal support for medical research funded by the NIH is essential for making real and continued progress on treatments and cures.
On Sept. 18, proponents of medical research gathered in Washington, D.C., for an event dubbed the Rally for Medical Research. More than 300 organizations from around the country met to call on policymakers to make NIH funding a national priority. The Senate subcommittee responsible for funding for the NIH has proposed a $600 million increase for the coming year to completely restore sequestration cuts to the agency's budget. However, this bill is stalled in Congress, jeopardizing this opportunity to make the agency whole again.
The message is simple: Investment in medical research leads to more progress, more hope and more lives saved.
Our communities should work together to ask Congress to restore funding to the NIH to protect the future health of our nation.
Carrie Byington, M.D., is the H.A. and Edna Benning Presidential Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Utah. She is also Associate Vice President for Faculty and Academic Affairs, Co-Director Utah Center for Clinical and Translational Science at University of Utah Health Sciences and Vice Dean Academic Affairs and Faculty Development at the University of Utah School of Medicine.