A new report released July 15th, 2014 and supported by the American Society of Hematology (ASH), the world's largest professional organization dedicated to the causes and treatments of blood disorders, details the dire consequences of recent deep budget cuts to federal health programs, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), that continue to halt biomedical research progress and threaten the health and safety of Americans.
The Coalition for Health Funding (CHF), an alliance of more than 90 public health advocacy organizations including ASH, invited scientists, public health advocates, and others to share stories of how they have been hurt by deep budget cuts enacted by Congress in recent years in an effort to control federal spending. The resulting report, titled "Faces of Austerity, How Budget Cuts Hurt America's Health," details the ways in which austerity is stifling scientific discovery and innovation, dissuading a generation of scientists and health practitioners, hindering access to essential health and social services, and undermining government programs designed to respond to health hazards and natural disasters. Among the stories included in the report are two from ASH members who detail how a decade of flat funding for NIH and a 5 percent budget cut in 2013 have shuttered labs and jeopardized tomorrow's treatments and cures.
"Most people I know have been affected - their research funding has decreased and, consequently, so has the size of their laboratories because they cannot afford to employ the same number of staff," explains ASH member Debra Newman, PhD, an investigator at BloodCenter of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, in the report released today. "Talented investigators have started to leave research and go on to other things because they can't support a research operation without money to run it."
The other ASH member story featured in the report is that of Christopher Porter, MD, a pediatric hematologist/oncologist at Children's Hospital Colorado in Aurora, who, despite receiving an excellent score on an NIH grant application, was denied funding in 2013 amid fierce budget cuts to the Agency. "My lab had been able to report exciting preliminary data, but we really needed supplemental funds to keep this project moving. While our initial application to NIH scored high enough to have received funding in previous years, it was not within the current funding range," Dr. Porter explains in the report.
Drs. Newman and Porter are among the first recipients of ASH Bridge Grants, awards first offered by the Society in 2012 for talented investigators who applied for competitive grants from NIH but were denied funding due to austerity. The awards are intended to "bridge" investigators to their next NIH grant. While such supplementary grant funding programs are helpful, they cannot replace critical NIH funding that has been cut for hematology research. If NIH funding continues to be threatened, an alarming number of both new and more experienced hematology researchers will turn away from research careers, leaving precious scientific innovation at a standstill.
"ASH is pleased to join CHF in presenting the very real and drastic effects of austerity through this eye-opening report," said ASH President Linda J. Burns, MD, of the University of Minnesota. "When biomedical research is under-funded, everybody loses. Scientists are forced to slow or suspend research because they no longer have the resources to continue searching for new treatments, and even cures, for some of the world's deadliest diseases. We continue to urge Congress to support a balanced approach to deficit reduction that does not include further cuts to critical biomedical research and public health and safety programs."
"Faces of Austerity" is available online at www.cutshurt.org.