IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

NIH Disease Funding Levels and Burden of Disease


  • Leslie A Gillum
  • Christopher Gouveia
  • E Ray Dorsey
  • Mark Pletcher
  • Colin D Mathers
  • Charles E McCulloch
  • S Claiborne Johnston


Background: An analysis of NIH funding in 1996 found that the strongest predictor of funding, disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs), explained only 39% of the variance in funding. In 1998, Congress requested that the Institute of Medicine (IOM) evaluate priority-setting criteria for NIH funding; the IOM recommended greater consideration of disease burden. We examined whether the association between current burden and funding has changed since that time. Methods: We analyzed public data on 2006 NIH funding for 29 common conditions. Measures of US disease burden in 2004 were obtained from the World Health Organization's Global Burden of Disease study and national databases. We assessed the relationship between disease burden and NIH funding dollars in univariate and multivariable log-linear models that evaluated all measures of disease burden. Sensitivity analyses examined associations with future US burden, current and future measures of world disease burden, and a newly standardized NIH accounting method. Results: In univariate and multivariable analyses, disease-specific NIH funding levels increased with burden of disease measured in DALYs (p = 0.001), which accounted for 33% of funding level variation. No other factor predicted funding in multivariable models. Conditions receiving the most funding greater than expected based on disease burden were AIDS ($2474 M), diabetes mellitus ($390 M), and perinatal conditions ($297 M). Depression ($719 M), injuries ($691 M), and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease ($613 M) were the most underfunded. Results were similar using estimates of future US burden, current and future world disease burden, and alternate NIH accounting methods. Conclusions: Current levels of NIH disease-specific research funding correlate modestly with US disease burden, and correlation has not improved in the last decade.

Suggested Citation

  • Leslie A Gillum & Christopher Gouveia & E Ray Dorsey & Mark Pletcher & Colin D Mathers & Charles E McCulloch & S Claiborne Johnston, 2011. "NIH Disease Funding Levels and Burden of Disease," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 6(2), pages 1-9, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:plo:pone00:0016837
    DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0016837

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    File URL:
    LibKey link: if access is restricted and if your library uses this service, LibKey will redirect you to where you can use your library subscription to access this item

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Morrow, R.H. & Bryant, J.H., 1995. "Health policy approaches to measuring and valuing human life: Conceptual and ethical issues," American Journal of Public Health, American Public Health Association, vol. 85(10), pages 1356-1360.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Joseph Millum, 2023. "Should health research funding be proportional to the burden of disease?," Politics, Philosophy & Economics, , vol. 22(1), pages 76-99, February.
    2. Lin Zhang & Wenjing Zhao & Jianhua Liu & Gunnar Sivertsen & Ying Huang, 2020. "Do national funding organizations properly address the diseases with the highest burden?: Observations from China and the UK," Scientometrics, Springer;Akadémiai Kiadó, vol. 125(2), pages 1733-1761, November.
    3. Kaushik Ghosh & Irina Bondarenko & Kassandra L Messer & Susan T Stewart & Trivellore Raghunathan & Allison B Rosen & David M Cutler, 2020. "Attributing medical spending to conditions: A comparison of methods," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 15(8), pages 1-17, August.
    4. Ciarli, Tommaso & Ràfols, Ismael, 2019. "The relation between research priorities and societal demands: The case of rice," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 48(4), pages 949-967.
    5. Pierre Azoulay & Joshua S Graff Zivin & Danielle Li & Bhaven N Sampat, 2019. "Public R&D Investments and Private-sector Patenting: Evidence from NIH Funding Rules," The Review of Economic Studies, Review of Economic Studies Ltd, vol. 86(1), pages 117-152.
    6. Vanderelst, Dieter & Speybroeck, Niko, 2013. "Scientometrics reveals funding priorities in medical research policy," Journal of Informetrics, Elsevier, vol. 7(1), pages 240-247.
    7. Eduardo Martínez-Martínez & María Luisa Zaragoza & Elmer Solano & Brenda Figueroa & Patricia Zúñiga & Juan P Laclette, 2012. "Health Research Funding in Mexico: The Need for a Long-Term Agenda," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 7(12), pages 1-11, December.
    8. Zhang, Lin & ZHAO, Wenjing & Liu, Jianhua & Sivertsen, Gunnar & HUANG, Ying, 2020. "Do national funding organizations properly address the diseases with the highest burden? - Observations from China and the UK," SocArXiv ckpf8, Center for Open Science.
    9. Irwin Feller, 2022. "Assessing the societal impact of publicly funded research," The Journal of Technology Transfer, Springer, vol. 47(3), pages 632-650, June.
    10. Thomas Fürst & Kigbafori D Silué & Mamadou Ouattara & Dje N N'Goran & Lukas G Adiossan & Yao N'Guessan & Fabian Zouzou & Siaka Koné & Eliézer K N'Goran & Jürg Utzinger, 2012. "Schistosomiasis, Soil-Transmitted Helminthiasis, and Sociodemographic Factors Influence Quality of Life of Adults in Côte d'Ivoire," PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, Public Library of Science, vol. 6(10), pages 1-12, October.
    11. Luba Katz & Rebecca V Fink & Samuel R Bozeman & Barbara J McNeil, 2014. "Using Health Care Utilization and Publication Patterns to Characterize the Research Portfolio and to Plan Future Research Investments," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 9(12), pages 1-12, December.
    12. Shibayama, Sotaro & Baba, Yasunori, 2015. "Impact-oriented science policies and scientific publication practices: The case of life sciences in Japan," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 44(4), pages 936-950.
    13. Ohid Yaqub & Javier A Luna & Duncan Aq Moore & Alfredo Yegros-Yegros, 2022. "Responding to a disease with resources from other diseases: Evidence from Zika vaccine research dynamics [Protective Efficacy of Multiple Vaccine Platforms against Zika Virus Challenge in Rhesus Mo," Science and Public Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 49(6), pages 942-950.
    14. David Hsiehchen & Magdalena Espinoza & Antony Hsieh, 2017. "Disease burden and the advancement of biomedical knowledge," Scientometrics, Springer;Akadémiai Kiadó, vol. 110(1), pages 321-333, January.

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.

      More about this item


      Access and download statistics


      All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:plo:pone00:0016837. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

      If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

      If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

      If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

      For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: plosone (email available below). General contact details of provider: .

      Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

      IDEAS is a RePEc service. RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.