Is National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding allocated to pediatric diseases correlated with disease burden for these conditions in the US?
In this cross-sectional analysis of 14 060 pediatric grants in the US, funding for pediatric research was correlated with a number of measures of disease burden, including measures of health care use. Certain conditions were substantially overfunded or underfunded relative to predicted funding levels based on disease burden.
Ongoing assessment of pediatric funding patterns using a complementary set of disease measures may help inform and prioritize pediatric research funding.
The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the largest government funding source for biomedical research globally. Burden of disease is one of the factors considered by the NIH in making funding allocations, though it is not known how funding patterns are associated with disease burden for pediatric conditions.
To determine the correlation between NIH funding and disease burden across pediatric conditions.
Design, Setting, and Participants
This cross-sectional study evaluates NIH grants funding pediatric research from 2015 to 2018 in the US. Pediatric grants were classified according to disease categories studied. Disease burden for each category was determined using measures from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation and hospitalization data from the 2016 Kids’ Inpatient Database.
Main Outcome and Measure
Correlation between NIH funding and pediatric disease burden using Spearman rank order coefficients and predicted amounts of disease-specific funding based on disease burden estimated from linear regression models.
This study analyzed 14 060 disease-specific pediatric grants awarded by the NIH from 2015 to 2018 in the US. Annual funding for disease categories ranged from $0 to $382 849 631. Funding for pediatric research was correlated with pediatric disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs), deaths, years lived with disability, and years of life lost (r, 0.56-0.63; P < 0.001 for all measures). There was also a correlation between funding and hospital-based metrics, including hospital days, number of hospital admissions, and hospital charges (r, 0.67-0.69; P < .001 for all measures). Eight disease categories received greater than $500 million more than predicted levels relative to DALYs, while 5 disease categories were funded more than $50 million less than predicted levels. Based on predicted levels of funding, congenital birth defects; endocrine, metabolic, blood, and immune disorders; and HIV/AIDS were the most overfunded categories relative to DALYs and hospital days. Conditions identified as most underfunded differed depending on use of DALYs or hospital days in estimating predicted funding levels.
Conclusions and Relevance
NIH funding for pediatric research was correlated with pediatric disease burden in the US with variable correlation based on the disease metric applied. There was substantial overfunding and underfunding of certain conditions. Ongoing evaluation of pediatric funding patterns using a complementary set of disease measures may help inform and prioritize pediatric research funding.
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Rees CA, Monuteaux MC, Herdell V, Fleegler EW, Bourgeois FT. Correlation Between National Institutes of Health Funding for Pediatric Research and Pediatric Disease Burden in the US. JAMA Pediatr. Published online September 13, 2021. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2021.3360
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