Following the President’s submission of his proposed fiscal year (FY) 2023 budget earlier this year, Congress has been working to craft the 12 appropriations bills that fund the different government agencies, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other federal public health agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). To learn more about the current progress of the congressional appropriations process and its potential impact on hematology, The Hematologist spoke with the Chair of the ASH Committee on Government Affairs, Dr. Jennifer Holter Chakrabarty.
Because NIH funding is so important to ASH members, advocating for this funding is always a priority for the Society during each appropriations cycle. Thanks to the hard work of hematology advocates from ASH and organizations from the larger biomedical research and public health communities, NIH has seen several consecutive years of significant increases in funding. ASH continues to advocate for robust funding for NIH and has joined with other organizations within the biomedical research community to urge Congress to provide at least $49.048 billion for the agency in FY 2023. This increase in funding, if enacted, would constitute an almost 9 percent increase over current funding. This level of increased funding is far from certain, making advocacy by the research community all the more vital to ensuring that NIH receives sustained and strong funding increases for medical research.
“NIH plays a huge role in everything that we do as hematologists,” Dr. Holter Chakrabarty explained. “It doesn’t matter if you are a researcher or a physician. NIH-funded research drives scientific innovation and develops new and better diagnostics, prevention strategies, and more effective treatments. Because NIH funding is so important to ASH members, advocating for this is always a priority for the Society, and thanks to the hard work of hematology advocates, NIH has seen several consecutive years of significant increases.
“However,” she continued, “it’s also important to remember that there are many federal agencies that work in promoting public health and medical research.” She also explained that while NIH is usually at the forefront of the public’s mind, “we also need to remind lawmakers that other agencies like the FDA and CDC are crucial to public health as well. This has been particularly true since the start of the pandemic.”
As this issue of The Hematologist went to press, congressional appropriators in the U.S. House of Representatives had drafted all 12 annual spending bills and set an ambitious schedule, hoping to pass all of the bills by the end of summer. The House bill containing funding for NIH, CDC, and other public health agencies provides $47.5 billion for NIH — an increase of approximately $2.5 billion over the agency’s current funding (but short of the $49 billion funding level advocated for by ASH and the research community). The House bill also contains $6.5 million for the Sickle Cell Data Collection program at the CDC — a proposed level that would more than double current funding for a program that has been one of ASH’s top advocacy priorities. However, the Senate has yet to release a draft of any of its appropriation bills, making it unlikely that Congress will finalize any appropriations bill prior to the start of the new fiscal year on October 1.
With the annual appropriations process still not finalized, ASH’s advocacy efforts in support of funding for NIH, CDC, and other public health agencies continues.
Meetings with legislators are an essential component of ASH’s advocacy efforts, providing an opportunity for members of Congress and their staff to gain insight into issues of concern to hematologists and their patients. Despite the ongoing lack of in-person advocacy visits, ASH members have been advocating virtually with members of Congress, and the Society continues to work with members of the Grassroots Network to ensure that legislators know the impact that public health funding has on both the patients hematologists treat and the pioneering research currently underway.
The Society also needs the help of all members to continue to focus attention on the importance of federal research funding and the need for predictable and sustained funding for NIH and federal public health programs.
“Every ASH advocate who contacts their member of Congress about the importance of NIH funding is helping to expand opportunities for other hematologists and researchers. We all know researchers who have lost funding and how detrimental that can be,” stated Dr. Holter Chakrabarty. “Your voice really can make a difference, and it only takes a minute to reach out to your Senators or Congressperson. Let them know how important this issue is. It’s easy to do and can make a lasting impact.”
Please visit the ASH website (www.hematology.org/advocacy) for updates on the FY 2023 budget process and for information about how you can contact your elected officials in support of NIH funding.