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Extending Life, Enhancing Life: A National Research Agenda on Aging
age-related fields requires prompt attention by organizations that have traditionally supported this training (National Institute on Aging; Department of Veterans Affairs; National Institute of Mental Health).
Although training programs on aging, initially supported by the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, began in the 1950s and 1960s, the establishment of the National Institute on Aging, the development of research and training programs in aging by the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the growth of scores of university programs in this country have taken, place for the most part since 1970. Many discoveries in aging arising from this national effort—from molecular biology to behavioral and social science—await application to health problems and to improvement of function in older people.
Support is needed to continue these advances. The 1990 budget of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) devoted about $442 million, or about 6 percent of all funds, to the study of aging, with about $239 million coming from the NIA (including funds for research grants, centers, education, and demonstration projects) and an additional $203 million for research on aging coming from other parts of the NIH (Office of Planning, Technology, Information, and Evaluation, NIA). In 1990 other federal departments and agencies (see Chapter 7 for details) provided additional funds of about $144 million for research on aging. Foundations added $15 million in support. The National Pharmaceutical Association lists $3.6 billion for research and development on drugs used to treat diseases occurring in older patients, but it is difficult to know how much of this money was designated for age-related research as such.
An increase in funding for research on aging could produce rapid advances in the ability to respond to the problems of many older persons. For example, the neurosciences are poised to make major discoveries in Alzheimer's disease, but for every 100 dollars spent on care for the victims of this disease, under 0.5 percent, or less than 50 cents, goes to research that might lead to the control of Alzheimer's disease (Advisory Panel on Alzheimer's Disease, 1989).
A recent article underscored the effect of restricted funds on research, noting that at the NIA the funding rate of approved traditional investigator-initiated research projects (R01s) for fiscal year 1989 was 16.9 percent, or about one in six (Movsesian, 1990). This percentage and that of all funded approved research project grants on aging (24 percent) are slightly lowered due to reapplications (see the latter discussion in the section on recommendations for funding).