In the tumult of Washington politics, legislation that affects personal concerns of Americans might take a back seat to more sensational measures.
For instance, last week’s impeachment votes grabbed most of the attention. A bill concerning U.S. life expectancy got little.
“Our investments in (the National Institutes of Health) are making a difference for families and making a difference, we hope, for the future,” Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt said in advocating for increased spending for the federal agency.
“That NIH-based research has helped raise life expectancy. It has vastly improved the quality of life for many Americans.”
Blunt, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, chairs the subcommittee that oversees federal health programs. He touted success in the spending bill approved last week by Congress, and signed by the president, and the new priorities that go along with that package.
The Republican lawmaker said that NIH funding has increased for the fifth straight year after going 12 years with no increase. An additional $2.6 billion will go into the federal agency this fiscal year. Blunt called the work essential for all Americans.
“This is a moment when medical research is so critical, when we know so much more than we did about the human genome, so much more than we knew about immunotherapy just five or six years ago,” the Missourian said on the Senate floor.
“This is a topic that wasn’t on the radar screen of treatments. Now, for many cancers, it is one of the first things you think about.”
The spending could have an impact on the lawmaker’s home state, which ranks 39th among American states and territories in average life expectancy.
According to 2017 numbers compiled by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, the Missouri life expectancy was 77.1 years, down from 77.5 in 2010. The U.S. average life expectancy in 2017 was 78.6.
Contributing factors include Missouri ranking in the upper quarter of states in adult smoking rates, in lack of physical activity and in adult obesity rates, according to federal health statistics compilations.
In Buchanan County, as one example, the mortality rate for coronary heart disease in 2014 stood at 195.6 deaths per 100,000, with the overall U.S. rate at 155 deaths, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation said.
The health portion of the spending bill also included $295 million to support President Trump’s initiative to combat HIV infections, $3.8 billion to fight the opioid crisis, $3.9 billion for mental health research and treatment and $318 million for rural health-care programs.
Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran, also a member of the Appropriations subcommittee on health, had praise for the measure, as well.
“These additional resources in this bill will serve to assist our nation’s top minds and researchers in new discoveries, including treatments and cures for diseases,” the Republican said.
“Deadly and devastating diseases result in large financial pressure on families and our health-care system. NIH’s research serves to find new treatments and therefore reduces costs, helping to benefit all Americans.”