The health needs of tens of millions of aging baby boomers threaten to overwhelm the nation's hospitals and caregivers within a decade or two, but the geriatric tidal wave does not appear to have been fully recognized at the National Institutes of Health.
The NIH, the nation's main medical research center, is devoting only about 11 percent of its $31 billion budget to studies directly involving health concerns of the elderly. Less than one-third of the $3.46 billion in aging research reported this fiscal year is channeled through the National Institute on Aging, nominally the main center for geriatric research.
Most of the funds, including some involving Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's and osteoporosis, came through other NIH institutes.
Aging is just one of a half dozen "compelling" opportunities for important scientific advances, said Dr. Francis S. Collins, director of the national institutes. "Aging is very much on our radar screen." he said. "So, of course, is diabetes, so is cancer, so is mental illness, so is research on children, autism."
Although there has been moderate growth in spending at all 27 NIH research centers, the growth is slower at the National Institute on Aging. President Obama has proposed adding $1 billion, or 3.2 percent, to the NIH in the 2011 fiscal year; the aging's institute's share would rise to 2.9 percent.