(NewMediaWire) - December 18, 2015 - Washington, D.C. - The American Heart Association praised Congress today for passing a $1.1 trillion spending bill that will fund the federal government through September 2016. The bill included much-needed support for programs critical to the fight against heart disease and stroke, while weakening or eliminating others.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) emerged on the plus side after dealing with budget cuts and increases that didn’t keep pace with medical research inflation for many years, with nearly a 7 percent increase — the largest boost in regular funding since 2003. Within the NIH, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute will receive a $118 million, or 4 percent increase over its 2015 funding, and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke will receive a $91 million, or 6 percent increase.
The NIH funding increase also includes $200 million for the Precision Medicine Initiative, as requested by President Obama, and an $85 million increase for the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies Initiative.
“The significant investment Congress has made in the NIH is outstanding and deserves high praise. This $2 billion increase is the most substantial boost the agency has received in several years. For the one in three adults suffering from cardiovascular disease, this is truly a red-letter day,” said American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown. “While we celebrate the bipartisan collaboration that led to this victory, a one-time investment is not enough. We challenge Congress to continue on this course and provide sustained funding for the NIH.”
Congress also provided a significant $30 million funding increase for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention. In addition, the Million Hearts and WISEWOMAN programs continue to receive federal support under the legislation. Furthermore, the CDC’s tobacco control work was almost fully funded at $210 million and no policy riders that would limit the Food and Drug Administration’s oversight of e-cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products were included.
“We are thankful that Congress recognized the importance of heart disease and stroke prevention when considering this bill,” Brown said. “These federally-funded programs are central to our prevention work, which can greatly reduce Americans’ risk for cardiovascular disease.”
Another plus for prevention in the budget agreement is the $47 million Congress provided for the Carol M. White Physical Education program. “We are so pleased to see this investment in our nation’s future. Funding for physical education helps kids perform better in the classroom and stay healthy,” Brown said.
On the negative side, the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Rural and Community Access to Emergency Devices (AED) Program was terminated.
“Immediate use of AEDs and CPR can more than double the chance of surviving cardiac arrest, which strikes nearly 1,000 Americans each day outside of a hospital setting,” Brown said. “For that reason and many more, it is extremely disappointing that Americans will no longer have the benefit of this crucial program that saves lives.”
Several nutrition-related policy riders were also attached to the spending bill. One of the seven riders allows schools to apply for a waiver on individual whole grain products, as well as delays in sodium reduction in school meals.
“We have said it before and we will say it again: we don’t need more research to tell us that kids are consuming too much sodium,” Brown said. “There is no room for ‘flexibility’ when it comes to children’s health. If we don’t decrease their daily salt intake, many may end up having heart attacks and strokes before they reach adulthood. If that’s not motivation enough, Congress should take note that many schools around the nation are either already meeting the Tier 2 sodium standard or are currently working toward meeting it.”
Multiple riders affect the Dietary Guidelines. One would require scientific agreement for its recommendations and another establishes an Institute of Medicine (IOM) review on the scientific process.
“It is unclear as to why Congress is holding the Dietary Guidelines to this unrealistic standard when they are transparent, evidence-based recommendations,” Brown said. “What is clear is that this is yet another example of Congress putting politics above science.
“While we are very concerned that the final bill included these riders, which are clearly an attack on the science that supports nutrition standards, the association thinks the pluses outweigh the minuses in this legislation. The vital support Congress provided for medical research, prevention programs and other valuable efforts will go a long way to help keep our nation heart healthy.”