APA works in coalition to highlight importance of economics research at NIH

Letter signed by 82 members of Congress encourages NIH Director Francis Collins to maintain support for health economics research.

In late July, the American Psychological Association worked with the Population Association of America and the American Economics Association to encourage members of Congress to cosign an important letter to National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins. The letter (PDF, 1.18MB), originating from Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., and cosigned by 82 members of Congress, encourages Francis Collins, MD, PhD, to maintain NIH support for research on health economics. APA thanks members of the APA Public Policy Advocacy Network, who responded to an Action Alert and wrote their members of Congress about this issue. 

The letter reads, in part:

To date, NIH support of behavioral and social science research has yielded important scientific advances. In particular, the agency’s support of economics research has generated a number of findings that address some of the most pressing issues in health research, including how to promote healthy behaviors, stem the onset of chronic conditions, improve the productivity of medical care and understand how socioeconomic factors interact with communities to perpetuate health disparities among population groups. In some instances, this research has also generated significant cost savings, such as the NIH funded study which led to changes in the pharmacy benefit system and eliminated $100 million annual costs without generating adverse health effects.

Research on health economics has been targeted in the past two years by some members of Congress. In July 2012, the House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee included language in its draft funding bill for fiscal year 2013 prohibiting the NIH to use funds “for any economics research programs, projects or activities.” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., included similar language in an early version of H.R. 2019, “The Kids First Research Act,” a bill to increase the budget for pediatric health research by eliminating federal funds for presidential campaigns and political party conventions. The language targeting health economics was removed from the final draft.  

Any prohibition on funding health economics research would affect behavioral economics research conducted by psychologists, as well as behavioral and cognitive portions of studies such as the National Institute on Aging’s Health and Retirement Survey. Several NIH institutes, including the National Institute on Aging and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, have growing portfolios of behavioral economics research.

For more information on this issue contact Pat Kobor.