21st Century Cures Legislation Bolsters Needed Research

Posted: 12/8/2016

21st Century Cures Legislation Bolsters Needed Research
RHA Disappointed Prevention Dollars Raided to Fund Legislation

Below is the statement of Joel Africk, president and Chief Executive Officer of Respiratory Health Association on the 21st Century Cures Legislation:

On Wednesday, December 7, 2016, the U.S. Senate, with overwhelming bipartisan support passed the 21st Century Cures Act. This legislation provides billions in funding for research into cancer and other rare diseases, streamlines the drug and medical device approval process, provides more support for the nation's mental health programs, and helps combat the opioid epidemic.

These are major wins for the country's medical community, providing much needed resources towards advancing science and hopefully finding cures. However, we are disappointed that these benefits came at the expense of proven, cost-effective programs to prevent disease.

This legislation allocates an additional $4.8 billion for research within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) over ten years. To help cover the expenses of this $4.8 billion bill, Congress swept $3.5 billion from the Prevention and Public Health Fund. The nation's Prevention Fund invests in community-based disease prevention programs including childhood immunizations, clinical prevention and tobacco use prevention programs among others.

This bill places public health organizations like Respiratory Health Association in a difficult position, as we support a greater investment in research to improve treatment for lung cancer and other diseases, but also recognize chronic disease prevention as critical to improving our nation's health.

Respiratory Health Association has seen firsthand the tremendous successes that have come as a result of programs funded by the Prevention Fund. An investment of $11 million in prevention funding in Chicago in the last decade resulted in significant decreases in adult smoking as well as an historic decrease in youth smoking in Chicago (now the lowest rate ever). This decrease in youth smoking alone will yield a savings of more than $300 million in future health care costs.

"Decreasing prevention funding at a time we are trying to bring health care costs under control is foolish and counter-productive," Africk said.

To be sure, Respiratory Health Association will continue to work diligently with members of Congress to ensure that public health and prevention is not left by the wayside.