House Bill Includes Pluses and Minuses for Heart Disease and Stroke Priorities, Says American Heart Association

July 14, 2016 Categories: Advocacy News

Washington, D.C., July 14, 2016 – The American Heart Association said today that the House FY 2017 funding bill for Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education includes some good and bad news for Americans with cardiovascular disease.

The good news first: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Division for Heart Disease and Stroke received a $15 million increase over last year, which is $45 million more than what the Senate allocated. In addition, both the WISEWOMAN and Million Hearts programs received level funding. “We commend the committee for directing the CDC to support heart disease and stroke prevention efforts by  state, local and tribal public health departments in communities with the highest burden of disease,” said American Heart Association President Steven Houser, Ph.D., FAHA.  

In addition, the House bill includes $1 billion for the Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) State Grants. While below the authorized level of $1.65 billion, this is more than the Senate provided and even higher than the President’s budget request. “These grants will help schools across the country invest in vital programming, like physical education, which keeps kids healthy and ready to learn,” Houser said.

On the downside, we were less pleased that funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) was increased by just $1.25 billion, compared to the Senate’s $2 billion add. As a result, the budget for the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute grew by 2.2 percent, in contrast to the Senate bill, which included a 4.1 percent bump. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke received a 3 percent increase – far less than the 6.3 percent boost from the Senate. 

"Growing the NIH's budget is essential to finding new therapies for patients suffering from cardiovascular disease. For the first time in many years the NIH budget saw a modest increase last year. This year, we were hoping House members would follow their Senate colleagues and provide a bigger and much-needed boost. Instead, they recommended fewer federal dollars for the agency, which could mean even less support for research into cardiovascular disease – our nation's no. 1 and most costly killer,” said Houser.

We appreciated the committee’s recognition of the enormous burden heart disease and stroke inflicts on our nation’s population and economy, particularly as the population ages. But as Houser added, “Compared to the crushing impact this disease has on our health and economy, research funding is disproportionately low. Even more disturbing is a recent study which found the declining death rate from heart disease and stroke has stalled to less than one percent a year since 2011. We urge Congress to allocate more federal funding for research that can prevent, treat and ultimately cure this burdensome disease."

We were also disappointed that the committee cut the CDC tobacco prevention and control program by $34,000 ($110,000 million below the Senate’s mark). A sodium-related legislative rider that may make it difficult for the CDC to continue to pursue community-based sodium reduction efforts also is cause for concern.

“While the association supports an updated Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for sodium, prohibiting efforts to lower sodium in Americans’ diets until the update is finished is nothing more than a delay tactic,” said Houser. “There is no reason that efforts to lower sodium cannot move simultaneously with a DRI update. Currently, 90 percent of Americans eat too much sodium, putting them at risk for high blood pressure and heart disease. For that reason and more, holding up these efforts can be detrimental to our nation’s heart health.”

He added, “The sodium rider in the House bill is a definite minus, and we do not believe the funding for the NIH and the CDC’s tobacco program is sufficient. But on the plus side, we appreciate the investment in the CDC’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke and the SSAE grants. We urge Congress to include in the final legislation the recommendations that best support the NIH, the CDC and the other valuable programs that help Americans live free of heart disease and stroke.”  

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Media ContactAbbey Dively (202) 785-7905 abbey.dively@heart.org