Spring is here! And in Washington, DC, that means the cherry blossoms are blooming, the birds are singing, and it’s budget season on Capitol Hill. Right now, members of Congress are determining how to allocate money among government agencies for the next year – and they’re considering several measures that will help individuals living with hydrocephalus.
Last December, thanks in large part to the actions of Hydrocephalus Action Network (HAN) members, legislators agreed to increase funding for medical research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by $2 billion dollars for 2016. This means more money is now going to research programs that directly support patients living with hydrocephalus. It also shows that Congress is listening to our message and prioritizing medical research and innovation.
As part of this additional funding, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), where most federal hydrocephalus-related research takes place, saw a $91 million dollar increase. Furthermore, a brain-mapping project called the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative received $20 million in additional funding. These substantial increases in funding for NINDS and the BRAIN Initiative at NIH will help researchers better understand and develop new and more effective treatments for hydrocephalus.
But we can’t stop here. We need to make sure the government continues to support hydrocephalus research and innovation next year and beyond. In February, President Obama released the final budget proposal of his presidency. While not legally binding, the president’s annual budget request is important in that it outlines his administration’s priorities for the year. In his budget, Obama reaffirmed his strong commitment to NIH funding, asking for an additional $1.3 billion for 2017. He also sought significant increases for the BRAIN Initiative and the new Precision Medicine Initiative, which strives to provide care and treatment in a way that is more personalized to fit the specific characteristics and needs of individual patients.
Now, the Senate and the House must each produce their own budget proposals and then work to find an agreement on how to fund the government next year. Funding for the NIH is at the forefront of this discussion. Through votes and statements on other critical legislation, such as a comprehensive research and treatment bill called the 21st Century Cures Act, members of Congress on both sides of the aisle and in both the House and Senate have publicly expressed support for some sort of mandatory funding increase for NIH. Clearly, there is bipartisan momentum behind strengthening investment in medical research.
But Democrats and Republicans disagree on how to pay for these increased investments, and these disagreements could ultimately stall the budget process altogether. We need to make sure members of Congress understand how critical these programs are to the hydrocephalus community. Only through speaking out can we ensure they continue to work towards finding a solution.
Want to learn more about the federal budget process and how you can get involved in asking Congress to support funding for hydrocephalus at NIH, join our upcoming webinar on March 29th. Find more information and register here: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/838445059566989569.
Become an advocate for hydrocephalus. Join the Hydrocephalus Action Network! Learn more here.