- The Washington Times - Monday, April 29, 2002

Scores of heart attack and stroke survivors will be among more than 350 American Heart Association volunteers on Capitol Hill tomorrow to lobby for more money for research and prevention efforts for those diseases, which they believe have been shortchanged in the past.
These "citizen advocates" are coming from virtually every state to remind their congressional delegations that heart disease is the nation's leading killer and that stroke ranks third.
They believe that federal funding for those disorders is insufficient to meet needs and has not kept pace with a five-year bipartisan initiative to double the overall budget of the National Institutes of Health.
"Almost 1 million people die each year in this country from heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases, nearly as many as the next seven leading causes of death combined," said Dr. Robert Bonow, the heart association's president-elect.
Preliminary data from the National Center for Health Statistics showed that in 2000, the most recent year for which mortality statistics were available, 709,894 deaths from heart disease and 166,028 deaths from strokes were reported.
"In addition," Dr. Bonow said, "nearly 62 million Americans about one person in five are living with the often debilitating consequences of these diseases."
He said federal funding levels for heart and stroke research have been "inadequate to support the burgeoning scientific opportunities in cardiovascular research" and have been "below what is needed to counter the burden these diseases impose on the nation."
He said cardiovascular disease has the "highest economic impact of all diseases." It is expected to cost a staggering $330 billion this year "in health care costs and lost productivity."
For fiscal 2003, the AHA is specifically asking Congress to appropriate $2.3 billion for heart research and $316 million for stroke research. In the current fiscal year, heart research received $1.9 billion and stroke research $262 million.
In a telephone interview last week from Hawaii, where he was attending an AHA science forum, Dr. Bonow said the association also was seeking $240 million for prevention programs offered by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that focus on reducing risk factors such as smoking and high-fat, high-cholesterol diets.
Dr. Bonow said the extra money is needed because the high death toll from heart disease is "plateauing" and is "going to linger." He cited contributing factors such as the aging of the population, obesity, lack of exercise, and the fact that many young people today are smoking.
AHA also wants lawmakers to appropriate the full $27.3 billion President Bush is seeking for NIH in the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. That would be up from $23.6 billion this year, a 15.7 percent increase. That level of funding would be twice the $13.5 billion provided NIH in fiscal 1998, when the five-year initiative to double its budget began.
The heart association's lobbying effort coincides with a national campaign by a California dentist to have Congress require NIH to use mortality data as the basis for funding disease research.
Dr. Richard Darling of Palm Desert, who has battled diabetes and survived a heart attack, a coma, liver cancer and three liver transplants, is disturbed that in the current fiscal year federal research funding for heart disease, which annually kills more than 700,000 Americans, was well behind that allocated for AIDS, which killed fewer than 15,300 a year in 2001 and 2000.

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