Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Are They Even Trying Anymore?

Because this is a time-sensitive post, as the New York Times tends to archive quickly, I'll quote extensively:
Rising Diabetes Threat Meets a Falling Budget

Published: May 16, 2006
In Worcester, Mass., scientists are boxing up their test tubes at a shuttered laboratory where just two years ago they isolated a chemical that triggers diabetes.

In Oklahoma City, health workers faced with soaring rates of Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease, question whether they can afford to continue to offer classes where diabetics learn how to avoid foot amputations.

In Columbia, S.C., diabetes educators say they need more money to expand a program that uses the pulpit in black churches to preach the importance of a healthy diet and exercise.

Across the country, health care officials who rely on federal money to help stem the growing epidemic of Type 2 diabetes say they have become increasingly frustrated and alarmed.

Diabetes is the only major disease with a death rate that is still rising — up 22 percent since 1990 — and it has emerged as the leading cause of kidney failure, blindness and nontraumatic amputation.

But public health experts say federal spending on the disease has historically fallen short of what is needed. And now the government has cut diabetes funds in the budgets for this year and next, despite the explosive growth of a disease that now figures in the deaths of 225,000 Americans each year.

[....]The number of Type 2 diabetics in the United States has doubled in the past two decades, to an estimated 20 million, when undiagnosed cases are included, making the disease the country's fastest-growing public health problem. Epidemiologists predict that one in three American children born in 2000 will join the ranks of those afflicted with Type 2.

This year, the federal government is spending $1.1 billion to study diabetes, less than a quarter of what is spent to study cancer. The government spends 10 times more per patient on cancer research, and the death rate for that disease, unlike that for diabetes, has begun to fall.

Epidemiologists say the disparity is partly explained by lingering but outdated perceptions of diabetes as a slow-moving condition that preys on the old and obese, not more recent views of it as an expanding danger that is striking people at earlier ages. [....]

Disease research is often underwritten by advocacy groups and pharmaceutical companies, but the federal government is by far the chief financier. From the viewpoint of pure economics, some health experts say it is hard to fathom why the federal government does not spend more on diabetes, which the American Diabetes Association has estimated costs the United States economy about $132 billion per year for treatment and lost productivity at work. Federal spending for both research and treatment, meanwhile, is $1.2 billion annually.

"That means the federal government is putting less than 1 percent of what this disease costs us into research and development," said Dr. C. Ronald Kahn, president of the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, a leading research institution. "Even the tire industry spends at least 3 percent of their total sales on research and development."
(emphases added)

Disgusting. But check out this graphic to get even angrier...

Any of my FReeper lurkers care to explain this to me? How a Federal agency can have its budget nearly doubled, and yet only see an incremental increase in spending to prevent and cure a disease of epidemic proportions?

I'm waiting...

, ,