By: SADAF AYAZ
April 4th, 2017
**Originally published on REV 21 Media
“Over the past week, there has been a ruckus of discussion in the science world over Trump’s intention to cut almost 17.8% (nearly $5.8 billion) from the NIH budget. “
In the US, one in two women and one in three men will develop cancer during their lifetime. One in two men and women will be diagnosed with the disease at some point in their lives. Moreover, there is a 100% chance both men and women around the world will get sick at least once in their lifetime.
With these statistics in mind, there is a one in one chance (yes, 100%!) that you, as an American, have been affected by the work of the people who make the NIH whether you are aware of it or not.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services which is primarily responsible for the biomedical and health related research conducted in the U.S.
The NIH conducts its own research along with providing funds and grants to other research facilities. The overall federal funding goes to entities like NASA and National Cancer Institute as well as specific grants for scientists, researchers, and Ph.D. students to discover scientific methods to solve our world’s most prevalent issues, especially in health.
In 2010, the government provided the NIH with almost $31 billion in order to conduct clinical research, genetics-related research, prevention research, and research on cancer and biotechnology. Over the past years, NIH has played a huge role in sustaining the human life with findings like the discovery of using fluoride to prevent tooth decay, the use of lithium to manage bipolar disorder, and the creation of vaccines against hepatitis.
UNFORTUNATELY, THE ALREADY UNDER-SERVED AND UNDERPAID SOCIETY OF SCIENTISTS WORKING DAY AND NIGHT TO MAKE LIFE EASIER FOR US ARE GETTING ANOTHER BLOW IN THE GUT.
Over the past week, there has been a ruckus of discussion in the science world over Trump’s intention to cut almost 17.8% (nearly $5.8 billion) from the NIH budget. This is months after Congress approved bipartisan legislation to increase such spending. The cuts would help fund the Wall Trump famously declared he would create to block undocumented Mexican immigrants from entering the United States by crossing the border.
“I will build a great wall — and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me –and I’ll build them very inexpensively,” said Trump. “I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.”
Although Trump had hoped to get financial assistance for the wall from the Mexican government, their refusal to fund the wall placed Trump in a situation where he has to cut funds from various other projects the government funds to build savings for the wall.
One of the most alarming ones being the reduction of federal funding from the NIH.
The $5.8 billion cut would effectively prevent the awarding of new grants or renewal of others. This means several scientists and Ph.D. students would have a lower chance at pursuing their research projects as well as almost depleting their chances at getting employment in an already competitive field. Moreover, senior investigators may have to lay off staff, rupturing research teams and leaving projects unfinished.
As former Vice President Joe Biden stated in a speech to the American Association of Cancer Research, by cutting the impact of the NIH, we are telling the world America is not afraid of sacrificing its leadership in scientific and technical affairs for strengthening its already top notch measures to prevent illegal immigration.
This can have devastating effects on ambitious young students from pursuing careers in science for fear of not being able to getting employed to do the job of their dreams.
Additionally, Biden, who launched the Obama administration’s “cancer moonshot” initiative almost a year ago, after the death of his son Beau from cancer, said the funding cuts would set back the NIH’s budget by 15 years with grant acceptance reaching a “historical low.”
Federal funding cuts from the NIH not only hurt the employment of scientists and students in the US, but the proposal would significantly affect America’s leadership in medical research and reduce opportunities to finding new ways to prevent and treat diseases.
The American Society of Clinical Oncology, the leading professional society for cancer specialists, warned the proposed budget “will devastate our nation’s already fragile federal research infrastructure,” and that, “Now is not the time to slow progress in finding new treatments and cures for patients with cancer.”
With a large population of men and women in America already at risk for getting cancer, it’s more important now than before for government funding on cancer and other health-related research to increase rather than decrease.
It’s important to understand that the reason why there hasn’t been a “cure” for cancer is not that our researchers haven’t found ways to prevent and cure the disease, rather they have found specific solutions for specific types of cancer, each requiring a separate set of researchers, funding and time.
Moreover, funding for cancer research only goes as far as delving into the cases that are found in over three percent of the population of cancer patients. With the current statistics of roughly 564,800 Americans are expected to die of cancer, approximately 17,000 people would have to be diagnosed with a specific cancer for research to begin on it. Unfortunately, due to the rising cases of new cancers and the unique developments of them in different patients, the struggle now is to find an overarching cure that can help prevent and cure all types of cancers. A goal that is somewhat ambitious, yet absolutely necessary.
Aside from the detrimental health-related effects of the funding cuts from the NIH, another imperative issue lies in the place where the most funding cuts would occur: climate change. A significant portion of the funding cuts would be from research projects aimed at learning more about and solving climate change and global warming.
According to President Trump: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”
Basically: global warming doesn’t exist, despite the constant changes in our weather and the research that backs it.
Despite the President’s beliefs, a greater issue lies in the fact that research on climate change doesn’t just exist to prove whether or not global warming exists. In fact, research on climate change is also crucial in predicting storms and other weather events that can cause devastating effects on our country and the world–costing the lives of many.
Clearly, cutting federal spending on the NIH is very problematic–even though Trump’s administration may disagree as shown in, White House press secretary, Sean Spicer’s comment doubting the actual impact of the NIH: “Only in Washington do you literally judge the success of something by how much money you throw at the problem, not actually whether it’s solving the problem or coming up with anything.”
The good news is, the proposal has yet to be accepted by the Congress and the results, thus far, seem favorable for the NIH.
Representative Tom Cole, Representative of Oklahoma and chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee responsible for the National Institutes of Health stated that he is “…extremely concerned about the potential impact of the 18 percent cut.” He added: “This committee and certainly me, personally, will be very hesitant” to go along with the proposal.
Similarly, Representative Nita M. Lowey of New York, the senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, believes the proposed cuts could have “catastrophic results” for researchers and patients alike.
While there are high hopes that the Congress, which has traditionally shown bipartisan support for the NIH, would reject the reductions in Trump’s budget blueprint, it is still important for us, as the young students of today, and scientists and researchers of tomorrow to take a step forward and protest the federal cuts.
Talk to your State Representative, show up at any rallies near you, and make sure your voice and concerns are heard and addressed.