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Trump's plan to cut health funding would kill jobs, cost money

U.S. investments in global health research and development from 2007 to 2015 not only created jobs but injected millions into local economies.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

The Trump Administration's proposal to slash funding to fight global health threats like malaria, Ebola, and HIV/AIDS could cost states thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in economic investment, and put the health of residents at risk.

The Administration has suggested that such funding is a bad deal for the country, but research shows it's saving lives and paying economic dividends. A new state-by-state analysis released by the Global Health Technologies Coalition, in fact, found that federal funding to create vaccines and treatments to combat deadly global diseases also benefits American states and creates jobs. 

U.S. investments in global health research and development from 2007 to 2015 generated considerable economic benefits for individual states -- creating jobs and injecting millions of dollars into local economies. For example, in Maryland alone, U.S.-funded global health research contributed $2.5 billion to the state's economy and created more than 30,700 jobs for its residents. Similarly, Georgia has these investments to thank for 5,800 local jobs and $349 million to its economy.

The findings also underscore the dangers of ignoring neglected diseases in an increasingly interconnected world by pointing out how these diseases -- assumed by many to only afflict the world's poorest -- also affect individuals across every state. 

Included is data on well-known diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and Zika; but also lesser-known threats like dengue and chikungunya, which many do not realize have been locally transmitted in the U.S. For example, Florida has seen 779 cases of dengue since 2010, including a local outbreak in 2009-2010 that sickened 88 people, as well as 1,216 cases of Zika since 2015, including 220 cases from local mosquito transmission.

The analysis builds upon a report released last year by GHTC and the health-oriented think tank Policy Cures Research. The report, Return on innovation: Why global health R&D is a smart investment for the United States, examined the national and global impact of U.S. spending on global health R&D. It found that from 2007 to 2015 alone, $14 billion in U.S. government investments in global health innovations contributed to the advancement of numerous new technologies to combat dangerous global diseases, while also creating 200,000 new American jobs and generating $33 billion in economic growth.

The return on innovation report revealed that while this spending may be directed at solving global health challenges, most of the money -- 89 cents of every dollar -- stays in the United States, funding researchers and stimulating industry investments.

Despite the increase of health threats and the strong returns both at home and abroad from these investments, U.S. government spending for global health R&D has been unreliable. According to the G-FINDER report, which tracks global funding for R&D for neglected diseases, outside the emergency allocation for the Ebola response, public investment has been on the decline since 2012. While 2016 saw a modest uptick, investment remained $178 million below 2012 levels. 

Now, Trump is proposing further deep cuts across the government's global health and medical research portfolio for fiscal year 2019 and exploring ways to roll back prior years' spending through presidential rescissions, which could target these same programs, though details remain unclear.

The top states benefiting from R&D investments, according to the analysis, are Maryland, with a return of $2.5 billion and 30,700 additional jobs; New York, at $916 million and 9,600 jobs; and California, at $876.4 million and 11,800 jobs.

The GHTC is an advocacy organization focused on global health R&D for new tools and technologies and is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and members. It does not   advocate for specific diseases or health areas.

Twitter: @JELagasse
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