American Heart Association President Steven Houser, Ph.D., FAHA. issued the following comments on President Trump’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2018:

“President Trump’s budget deals a devastating blow to medical research by slashing the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) funding by $7.2 billion. A cut of this magnitude would force promising research to be left unfinished, or worse, put on hold. The hope of too many Americans rests on NIH-funded research and breakthrough medical advancements, including preventing, treating and ultimately curing cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Research is not the only area that would feel the pain of this budget. The Trump administration is also proposing diluting the focus and recommending major cuts for chronic disease programs under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The association strongly urges Congress to reject this approach and commit to significantly increasing the investment in chronic disease prevention, particularly the CDC’s state-based programs for cardiovascular disease. It is unconscionable that effective initiatives, such as these, would be brought to a standstill for the sake of short-term budget savings at a time when we are facing exponential growth in the economic burden of CVD.  

The association is concerned that prevention is even further squeezed financially in other areas of the budget. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, plays a vital role in addressing food insecurity and poor nutrition in this country. Notwithstanding the fact that SNAP’s current monthly benefits are not adequate, the administration makes this situation even worse by cutting SNAP significantly. Another casualty is the Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) grant program, a vital component of a healthy, well-rounded education for children. Currently underfunded at only $400 million, the administration cuts SSAE completely, which will undermine the ability of schools to adequately fund their physical education activities.

We are also concerned that the President’s budget relies too heavily on user fees to fund the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Reducing the FDA’s budget authority by $854 million and further shifting costs to fees assessed on the drug and device industry, beyond what is currently negotiated, sets a troubling precedence. Appropriated funds, and not an overreliance on user fees, must remain the major source of funding for the FDA.

Even more troubling, President Trump’s budget reneges on promises made to some of the most vulnerable Americans by proposing even more cuts to the Medicaid program in addition to the $800 billion decrease proposed by the House in the American Health Care Act. Further eroding the federal commitment to Medicaid funding will be an extra blow to states struggling to balance their own budgets while maintaining essential health care services for pregnant woman, children, the elderly and disabled.

Right now, one in three Americans suffer from CVD – the most expensive disease and a leading cause of death and disability in our nation – yet also one of the most preventable. NIH-funded heart and stroke research coupled with CDC-funded and other prevention programs are tried and true weapons to fight this deadly and costly disease. Any pause in the progress of these agencies would be detrimental to our nation’s health and economy, especially since the burden of CVD is expected to worsen. It is projected that by 2035, nearly half of the U.S. population will have some form of CVD, with annual costs estimated to exceed $1 trillion.

Now more than ever, Congress needs to increase investment in the NIH and the CDC so their invaluable work can move full speed ahead. The association implores lawmakers to reject the President’s proposed NIH budget and to instead provide an additional $2 billion to the agency again this year. This increase will provide a steady, predictable funding stream that would help the NIH prioritize heart and stroke research. We also urge Congress to reject the administration’s CDC funding level and cuts to SNAP and SSAE. By boosting research and prevention efforts now, we can help more Americans live free of heart disease and stroke in the decades to come.”