American Heart Association praises Congress for research and prevention support in final omnibus bill

March 29, 2018 Categories: Advocacy News

WASHINGTON, D.C., Mar. 26, 2018 — The American Heart Association extended its deep appreciation to Congress today for approving an FY 2018 omnibus spending bill that included significant funding for federal programs that help fight the nation’s no. 1 killer, cardiovascular disease. 

“Congress delivered a great gift to Americans suffering from heart disease and stroke with passage of this legislation,” said American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown. “The substantial budget increases provided for medical research and prevention are just what we need to take on the heavy burden cardiovascular disease will continue to place on our nation.”  

The $3 billion increase approved for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) was an outstanding triumph. The funding is the most substantial federal support the NIH has received since the agency’s budget was doubled nearly two decades ago. The association thanks the lawmakers whose bipartisanship made it possible—House and Senate Labor-HHS Education Appropriations Subcommittee Chairmen Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo) and Ranking Members Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA). 

NIH’s significant budget boost will be divided among its 27 institutes, centers and divisions, including the two which are responsible for heart disease and stroke research. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute will receive $848 million in additional funds, increasing its budget to $3.3 million, and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke will receive $832 million, enlarging its budget to $2.1 million.  

“We strongly encourage the NHLBI and the NINDS to invest this funding in heart and stroke research,” Brown declared. “Cardiovascular disease, if left unchecked, is projected to affect 45 percent of Americans by 2035. Research is our best hope to wipe out the serious health and economic crisis we will be facing if this prediction becomes a reality.” 

The NIH was not the only agency to see more federal support in the omnibus bill. Many of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) programs which help Americans manage risk factors before they result in heart attacks and strokes also obtained increases or their funding remained the same as last year’s, including:  

  • CDC’s Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, which will receive $140 million, a 7.7 percent increase over 2017 
  • CDC’s Million Hearts, which is slated for $4 million (same as 2017), despite being zeroed out in the administration’s budget 
  • CDC’s WISEWOMAN, which will get $21.120 million, the same amount as last year.  

In addition, the American Heart Association was extremely pleased to that this legislation did not contain any tobacco policy riders that were under consideration in the past, such as ones that would exempt premium cigars from FDA regulation or alter the grandfather date, so e-cigarettes and other tobacco products would be exempt from FDA product reviews. Fortunately, none of those riders were in the omnibus, and to top it off the legislation funded the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health at $210 million, $5 million more than 2017.  

On the physical education front, the association was gratified to that the Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) grant program will receive $1.1 billion under this bill. SSAE is a critical program authorized by the “Every Student Succeeds Act” and is a vital component of a healthy, well-rounded education for children. With this support, schools can receive additional funding for their physical education classes, among other activities.   

“This additional support for research and prevention will be a huge help in combating America’s most costly and prevalent disease, and we commend Congress for making it possible,” said Brown. 

Finally, the one disappointment in the omnibus legislation was a rider that ties the FDA’s 2016 voluntary targets to reduce sodium for all food products to an update of the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI). DRI is the general term for a set of reference values used by the federal government to plan and assess nutrient intakes of healthy people, and an update of these values is not likely to be completed for a few years. The association supports an updated DRI but views this provision as nothing more than a delay tactic. While the FDA can continue to work on the targets, the American Heart Association believes this lengthy postponement could potentially blunt the momentum behind the voluntary sodium reductions enough to effectively kill them. 

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About the American Heart Association  

The American Heart Association is devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke – the two leading causes of death in the world. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat these diseases. The Dallas-based association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. To learn more or to get involved, call 1-800-AHA-USA1, visit heart.org or call any of our offices around the country. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. 

The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association receives funding mostly from individuals. Foundations and corporations donate as well, and fund specific programs and events. Strict policies are enforced to prevent these relationships from influencing the Association's science content. Financial information for the American Heart Association, including a list of contributions from pharmaceutical companies and device manufacturers, is available at http://www.heart.org/corporatefunding. 

For Media Inquiries:  

Retha Sherrod: retha.sherrod@heart.org, 202-785-7929 

For Public Inquiries: (800) AHA-USA1 (242-8721)