By Casey Harper (The Center Square)
Congress’s recent $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill increased the budget for medical research funding at the National Institutes of Health by just $50 billion in 2023. A closer look at the agency reveals that NIH is spending more of its time and money on equity and LGBT issues, along with “systemic racism and inequities.”
While the National Institutes of Health have devoted millions of taxpayer dollars to their research into problems like these, taxpayer money has not gone toward finding cures and medical treatments, which are the federal health agency’s primary research goals.
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“It’s very concerning that the NIH is doing this,” said Mike Gonzalez, an expert on racial issues at the Heritage Foundation. “It’s actually a danger now, it’s entering medicine because these are life and death issues, and if we’re making these decisions based on these hocus pocus ideas. [Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion] In order to fulfill some of the virtues that our government seems to be full of at this point, we start putting people’s lives at risk.
The latest omnibus increased NIH’s 2023 budget by nearly $2.5 billion, or 5.6%, to a total of $47.5 billion. 10 years ago the NIH’s budget was less than $30 billion.
This kind of focus comes in part because the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities was elevated from the center to an agency during the Obama administration. Racial disparities exist in certain health conditions, but research grants awarded by the NIH go beyond those standard health conditions.
In 2020, the agency created a new category for research alongside its list of diseases, called “social determinants of health,” as one of several funding vehicles for this type of grant.
For example, the NIH awarded a $1.2 million grant to find evidence that racism causes poor sleep in minority communities. The studies are based on the hypothesis that disparities in sleep health in the black community are “partially explained by experiences of interpersonal racial discrimination.”
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“The central hypothesis is that the use of lethal force by police against unarmed Black Americans leads to unhealthy sleep patterns among other Black Americans in the general US population,” says the grant summary in the NIH database.
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NIH is the nation’s self-proclaimed “medical research agency, making important discoveries that improve health and save lives.”
“The way to deal with the disparities we have is not by addressing the root causes but by addressing the outcomes,” Gonzalez said. “Equity is the dynamic opposite of equality. It means we are going to treat people differently according to their race in order to affect the results.
The NIH awarded $232,500 in 2015 and $193,750 in 2016 to the University of California, San Diego, to develop an interactive and tailored text-messaging system to encourage Latino men to exercise.
“Mexican American (MA) men report particularly low physical activity (PA) and are disproportionately burdened by conditions associated with a sedentary lifestyle (eg, diabetes, obesity),” says the grant description in the NIH database. “Due to cultural, SES, educational, and language differences, MA men may have limited access to public health interventions that promote PA.”
For the NIH, any kind of disparity warrants more tax dollars in racially-tailored research. The same goes for LGBT issues.
In 2012 and 2013, the NIH spent $432,000 studying Grindr, an app for gay men to find romantic and sexual encounters.
The study undertook to investigate the process by which MSM use smartphone apps to find sexual partners (ie, who they look for, how they present themselves, how they communicate, safe sex counseling coverage and disclosure) and to “investigate” sexual and emotional states (eg, more/ (less urgency, arousal, impulsivity)” men experience when using the apps to see how it affects sexually risky behavior.
That kind of research continues, including a 2023 grant of $614,775 to study an HIV prevention intervention for a widely used geospatial app for the Chinese. [men who have sex with men].” The funds will be used to “help individuals understand when to use certain prevention services and make accessing services less burdensome” to prevent the spread of HIV in China through a romantic hookup app.
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These are just a few of many more examples.
“We all have a responsibility to correct systemic racism and inequities,” the NIH says on its website.
The researchers touted the public health benefits of their research. Assistant Professor at Harvard University Dr. Alexander Tsai is conducting the aforementioned sleep research through Massachusetts General Hospital, where he works as a psychiatrist.
Tsai has praised The program told The Center Square, “The study appears to be neither baseless nor grounded in racial ideology.”
“And, given the importance of public health, it falls under the purview of the US National Institutes of Health, so it’s not a poor use of taxpayer dollars,” he said.
Syndicated with permission from The Center Square.