The Trump Administration’s 2018 budget plan calls for cutting the National Institutes of Health budget by almost 20 percent, a loss of about $6 billion compared with current funding, a reduction that could seriously affect research initiatives, including health information technology efforts.

“If approved by Congress, the funding reduction will have a devastating impact, as the majority of resources are dedicated to competitively reviewed biomedical research projects, training programs and science centers, affecting nearly every congressional district in the country,” according to NIH.

Carrie Jones
Carrie Jones

The 18 percent cut for NIH would bring funding levels to a 15-year low and stymie efforts in medical research, patient advocacy, pharmaceutical sciences and health care delivery initiatives, according to the agency.

That’s why stakeholders have formed the Coalition to Save NIH Funding to fight the cuts and have contracted with Washington-based public affairs agency JPA Health Communications to manage the advocacy program.

In the first 24 hours after the coalition was formed, nearly 50 organizations expressed interest in joining, says Carrie Jones, principal at JPA Health Communications. The coalition, she adds, wants stakeholders to understand the urgency of pending cuts, stand up and not permit the reductions. “The money spent on research is a down payment on reducing healthcare costs in the future,” Jones says.

Also See: NIH to expand genomics catalog for research community

NIH initiatives often include use of health information technologies to support projects. For instance, the agency funded a portal for researchers and in the past year added data and more powerful tools to help researchers achieve breakthroughs in better understanding and treating Type 2 diabetes. The portal acts as a central access point for large datasets of human genetic information linked to Type 2 diabetes and related traits.

In the past month, HIH started to expand its Encyclopedia of DNA Elements program, known as ENCODE, to create high-quality and easily accessible sets of data, tools and analyses used to interpret genomic sequences to gain more knowledge of disease-linked genomic variations. Since its launch in 2003, ENCODE has supported more than 1,700 scientific publications.

Other recent NIH initiatives include a challenge to the biotech community to design wearable devices to monitor blood alcohol levels in real-time, and a new research program to explore the potential for precision medicine to reduce health disparities. This includes new tools and analytics to integrate patient data with information about factors at community and population levels that influence health outcomes, such as economic, social and political conditions.

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