By AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS

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The National Institutes of Health would face a $5.8 billion cut under President Donald Trump’s first budget proposal, a steep reduction that the American Heart Association said would be detrimental to the fight against heart disease and stroke – the world’s top two killers.

The NIH, a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, funds scientific research into a vast array of diseases and conditions, heart disease, cancer, developmental disorders and mental illness.

“The severe budget cut to the NIH proposed by the Trump administration would reverse the progress we are making to improve the health of all Americans,” said AHA President Steven Houser, Ph.D., director of the Cardiovascular Research Center, professor of medicine and professor and chair of Physiology at Temple University School of Medicine. “Federal research must be made a top priority in this budget.”

AHA President Steven Houser, Ph.D.

AHA President Steven Houser, Ph.D.

The budget proposal lops off nearly 20 percent of the federal agency’s $30.3 billion discretionary budget, reducing it to $25.9 billion. Trump’s plan proposes a “major reorganization” of the institutes and centers at NIH to “help focus resources on the highest priority research and training activities.”

But Houser said it’s urgent that the government actually increase research funding to stop the devastating impact of noncommunicable diseases.

“In the next two decades, heart disease and stroke will place a crushing burden on the public’s health and the nation’s economy,” he said. “If we are to avert this looming crisis, more federal research dollars must be devoted to heart and stroke research, as well as prevention.”

In January, an AHA-commissioned analysis projected that by 2035, more than 131 million Americans will be diagnosed with cardiovascular disease, costing the nation more than $1.1 trillion annually.

Houser said repercussions from federal funding unpredictability could cause a “scientific brain drain” and prevent younger scientists from entering the field of academic research.

After years of budget cuts or increases that didn’t keep pace with medical research inflation, the NIH received a $2 billion increase in federal funding for 2016. It received another cash infusion for 2017 with funding for then-Vice President Joe Biden’s “cancer moonshot” and a precision medicine initiative.

The NIH is the only entity that funds more cardiovascular research than the AHA.