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US health research stagnant, says advocacy group

November - December, 2008  |  Volume 7, Issue 6

Funding of medical and health research from government and private sources was approximately $122.4 billion in 2007 according to a new report from Research!America.

The advocacy group says the amount represents 5.5 percent of the $2.25 trillion projected for 2007 health spending overall in the United States, which it says is "a stagnation relative to total health costs, a trend that began in 2004.

"Cuts in spending power have had devastating effects on the research community and young scientists in particular," said former Rep. John Edward Porter, chair of Research!America. "Without real growth in our federal research investment, we lose the innovation that has built our economy and represents our future. Science will only be a funding priority if we do something about it."

The Research!America report, 2007 Investment in U.S. Health Research, finds that spending by sector on health-related research was flat or rose just slightly from 2006:

  • The combined health research budgets of the National Institutes of Health and other federal agencies decreased from 2006 to 2007 after accounting for biomedical inflation, maintaining a trend that began in 2004.
  • In 2007, the NIH, which is the largest federal agency that funds research to improve health, saw its budget decrease for the fourth year in a row relative to inflation, at $29.1 billion.
  • Industry spending on health research increased slightly from $64.5 billion in 2006 to nearly $68.3 billion in 2007. This modest growth is overshadowed by the fact that flattening in government funds has in the past led to a similar flattening in private funding.
  • Health research funded by universities, independent research institutes, voluntary health associations, foundations, and state and local governments combined rose from $13.7 billion in 2006 to $16 billion in 2007.

"Now is the time to take bold actions both personally and through advocacy groups to accelerate support for all health and medical research," said Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research!America. "By failing to do so, we consign ourselves and future generations to a world with little hope for dramatically improving human health and well-being."

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