Analysis: Global health research and development spending comes home, in disease solutions and dollars

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With budget proposals titled “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again“ for fiscal year 2018, and “An American Budget” for 2019, the premise of White House budget plans that would slash funding for global health research and development to levels not seen since the start of this century seemed predicated on the notion that the quest for biomedical solutions to diseases abroad did nothing to advance interests at home.

But what if you live in Florida, which has seen 779 cases of dengue fever over the last eight years, 88 of them during a locally transmitted outbreak from 2009-2010, and 1,216 cases of Zika, 220 locally transmitted, since 2015? Those statistics alone might make you see the value of U.S. investments toward vaccines against the mosquito-borne diseases, as well as improved diagnostics to improve detection and surveillance. You also might appreciate the $94.1 million that U.S. government investments in global health research and development have brought to scientific and academic institutions in your state, along with more than 1,500 new jobs. According to a state-by-state analysis of global health research spending impacts at home, released this week, those are some of the benefits to Floridians of U.S. biomedical research spending to counter global infectious diseases.

With an interactive map, downloadable data, information on global infectious diseases found locally in each state, and highlighted scientific studies, the analysis, from the Global Health Technologies Coalition, argues that global health investments bring returns home. In Missouri, according to the analysis, where $73.6 million in U.S. global health research and development investments has supported the creation of more than 850 new jobs, scientists are exploring how an existing malaria drug can protect the fetuses of Zika-infected pregnant women.

In Tennessee, where $64.1 million in U.S. global health research and development investments has supported the creation of more than 850 new jobs, the analysis highlights work toward stopping mosquitoes from spreading disease. And in Maryland, $2.5 billion in U.S. government global health research investments has created more than 30,700 jobs, according to the analysis, as well as innovations that include a vaccine protecting American travelers to cholera-prone areas.

The analysis follows GHTC’s earlier report, with Policy Cures Research, Return on Innovation: Why global health R &D is a smart investment for the United States, which described investments that led to advances against global health threats, and provided more than 200,000 American jobs. The analysis also follows the White House budget plan for the coming year, renewing a bid for global health and research spending cuts rejected by Congress for 2018.

Then, confronted with the White House “America First” plan to cut the budget of the National Institutes of Health by 20 percent, Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Chair Roy Blunt (R-MO) responded mildly “It’s hard to imagine we would do that,” while fellow subcommittee member Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) explained: “My goal is not to decrease funding for medical research, but to increase it.”

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