Date: May 1st, 1999
Although medical research is a major avenue to healthy aging, it is seriously under-funded. The Clinton Administration's budget for next year includes only a 1.4 percent increase in the budget for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), America's premier federal agency for medical research. That represents the smallest increase in the NIH budget this decade.
Yet this is happening when substantial funding increases are needed most. For consider these facts:
- Next year, one-eighth of the American population will be over 65. But the tide of aging Baby Boomers promises to hit big-time. By 2030, there will be 70 million people in the 65-plus age group, half of whom will be over 75. Unless more effective means are found to prevent and postpone disease, health care costs are expected to account for an astronomical $16 trillion a year. The burden on Medicare and private insurance could be crushing.
- Discoveries from biomedical research have the potential to reduce health care spending dramatically by delaying the occurrence of aging-related diseases. For example, if the onset of osteoporosis, which affects 23 million women and 5 million men, could be postponed by five years, it could save up to $10 billion a year. Putting Aging on Hold: Delaying the Diseases of Old Age
- Approximately 80 percent of the medical research projects deemed worthy of funding by the National Institutes of Health go unfunded. According to peer review, these are worthy projects that have the potential for major medical breakthroughs, yet they remain mere ideas on a shelf. A twofold negative impact results: the public is cheated of the good that comes from research, and newcomers to the biomedical field are discouraged from pursuing research.
- Without research breakthroughs, society will be left with the equivalent of very expensive hand-holding for sick older people. Today's drugs and other remedies for aging-related diseases simply are not good enough. Even the better versions of current pharmaceuticals do not treat the root causes of major costly illnesses such as heart failure, arthritis, and cancer.
Doubling the funding for the National Institutes of Health to $25.5 billion in the next five years MUST be a national priority. America's scientists have the knowledge needed to make lifesaving discoveries. Let's urge Congress to provide them with more resources so they can get on with their jobs.
The United States is facing a critical shortage of doctors, researchers and skilled geriatricians. We must encourage a national initiative to stimulate interest in aging-related research, geriatrics and gerontology beginning with pre-college and college curriculums and continuing at the professional level with special leadership and fellowship programs.
What You Can Do
The Alliance for Aging Research is a strong voice with national policymakers and legislators. It works tirelessly to educate them about important health and research issues.
But the nation's leaders also need to hear from you. Please join the Alliance in advocating for increased medical research funding. Resources on the Alliance Web site have a more detailed explanation of the issues, guidelines for letter writing, and a list, by state, of all Senate and House representatives. It's very important that you contact House and Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee since they make key recommendations about NIH funding.
Let's work together NOW. The future of healthy aging in our country depends on it.