On the Senate floor on Monday, Sept.30, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D) made an impassioned plea against the long-term consequences of sequester budget cuts. She cited the Framingham Heart Study (FHS), which is set to lose 40 percent of funding from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). FHS, administered by Boston University and the nation’s longest running large-scale analysis of cardiovascular disease, has been credited with numerous breakthroughs connecting risk factors of smoking, obesity, and cholesterol to heart disease. “There are people across this country who are alive today in part because of the work that began with this study,” said Warren.
Watch an excerpt of her speech .
The 40 percent reduction in federal funding took effect Aug. 1 and will reduce the study’s clinical and administrative workforce. The biggest hit is the funding cut to conduct patient examinations, which FHS Principal Investigator Philip Wolf cites as “the lifeblood of the study.” The physical examination provides continuity with participants and allows more extensive data than telephone interviews. According to BU School of Medicine Dean Karen Antman, MD “If we let these people go because we don’t have an exam and because we have this cut and then, when we do get funding for the exams — and I’m sure we will — it will actually cost more to bring them back or retrain new staff.” The sequester cuts also affect another $28 million in research that depends on FHS data. Warren does not see the cuts as inevitable, but as a consequence of misguided priorities.
“Here we are,” says Warren, “bluntly hacking away at their funding … not because we have to, but because Washington has its priorities all wrong, and it is making some truly terrible decisions.”
Submitted by Thomas Peteet, MD