On March 16 2017, The Trump Administration released its “Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again.” The budget proposal, which increases defense and border-security spending while slashing foreign aid, health, and environmental programs, is intended to “send a message to our allies and our potential adversaries that this is a strong-power administration.” The National Institute of Health is one of many agencies whose budget is on the chopping block and it is expected to see a $5.8 billion (or 18 percent) decrease in funding.

Department of Health & Human Services (Wikimedia commons/Sarah Stierch)

The proposed budget includes eliminating NIH’s Fogarty International Center which focuses on improving global health. The Trump administration offered no explanation as to why it targeted the Fogarty center, but some scientists believe that it is because the Center funds Americans to train foreign doctors – something that may be at odds with President Trump’s “America First” ideology.

Nonetheless, the proposed cuts to the NIH budget leave many perplexed. Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) said “I don’t favor cutting NIH or Centers for Disease Control. You’re much more likely to die in a pandemic than a terrorist attack, and so that’s part of the defense of the country as well.” In fact, over the past 50 years, nearly 2 million Americans have been killed by intercontinental virus strikes including one death from Ebola, 2,000 from West Nile Virus, 700,000 from AIDS, and 1.2 million from the flu.

In the face of impending threats such as Zika, Dengue, and Avian Flu – none of which recognize national borders – the proposed cuts threaten the very research programs designed to protect us from such diseases. While the NIH funds research on diseases that have not yet caused significant casualties in the United States, Dr. Daniel G. Bausch, a Tulane University virologist and the scientific program director at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, said in regard to the cuts, “Even if you don’t care about your neighbors, if you see a fire across the street, your best bet to protect your house is not to just stand in your yard with a bucket of water. It’s to help put it out.”

Sources and Further Reading:

  1. Read President Trump’s Budget Blueprint – NPR
  2. Trump Unveils ‘Hard Power’ Budget That Boosts Military Spending – NPR
  3. What Trump Cut in His Budget – The Washington Post
  4. Trump Plan Eliminates a Global Sentinel Against Disease, Experts Warn – The New York Times
  5. Tom Cole: Trump’s Proposed Cuts To NIH, CDC Are ‘Short-Sighted’ – Talking Points Memo
  6. Trump Budget Would Strip $1 Billion from Mass., Markey Says – The Boston Globe
  7. NIH Would See Huge Budget Cut Under President’s Proposal – The Washington Post
  8. Response to a Congressman: How We All Benefit from Global Health Research – Fogarty International Center