On March 24, the Affordable Health Care Act was retained after it became evident that the American Health Care Act endorsed by President Trump’s administration did not have necessary political support in Washington. Although this was an important victory for public health, there looms another health-related proposal under review by the administration that could jeopardize public health in a significant way.
This concerns a plan to cut 20 percent or $5.8 billion from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget in 2018. As psychologists, it is essential to consider what this shortfall could mean with regard to the mental health and well-being of our clients and our future.
Principled leaders across this country must object to this proposal and citizens must demand its rejection. A $5.8 billion cut at the NIH could devastate American science and research and could be detrimental to the physical and mental health of children, teenagers and adults for years to come.
Thanks to the dedicated work of thousands of NIH-supported researchers and their staff, health research has significantly progressed. NIH has been instrumental in expanding knowledge about complex disabilities and treatments aimed at expanding longevity, physical and psychiatric health. The NIH community of 27 institutes and centers and expanded network of over 2,600 medical institutions and academic centers continues to strategically increase knowledge about adverse mental and physical health conditions. In turn, it has revealed effective approaches to manage them with the goal of yielding better health outcomes.
Indeed, advanced health research through NIH has yielded crucial information on complex disorders and debilitating illnesses, such as autism, blindness, Alzheimer’s Disease, cancer, HIV/AIDS, cardiovascular diseases, schizophrenia and stroke. As a result of NIH – supported research, major guidelines have been produced that have guided intervention programs, enriched important health policy and stimulated future needed research. These guidelines must be encouraged, not short circuited.
The current budget at NIH has also supported testing of new drugs, vaccines, medical devices and diagnostics that must not be suspended. Research must persist on innovative treatments, including gene therapy, CT-integrated robotics and “smart” drug delivery through novel drug and device combinations. This work must remain unfettered by roadblock budget cuts of this magnitude.
The progress of key ongoing medical and psychiatric research through NIH could be interrupted, resulting in incalculable setbacks and losses to a knowledge bank that could be difficult to restore. In the shadow of physical and mental health decline, the cuts are likely to have cascading negative effects on children, teenagers and adults of all ages by impacting other outcomes in addition to health. Rippling impact could be felt to quality of life, relationship health, occupational status and socioeconomic stability. It could be dangerously shortsighted to severely limit research on the prevention or the containment of infectious illnesses such as the Zika virus and others given the possibility of outbreak here and around the world.
A $5.8 billion budget cut to the NIH is also likely to have additional economic fallout. Many well-trained and seasoned researchers, lab scientists, research coordinators, technicians, administrators and other support staff could lose their jobs. Companies that manufacture required study materials, equipment and more could be adversely affected as well.
Simply said, significant reductions in NIH funding support in 2018 by this administration could be detrimental and must be opposed.
Nancy Samson, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist and social worker in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. Her email address is: NancySamsonPhD@gmail.com.