FRIDAY, Nov. 14 (HealthDay News) -- Family physicians and departments of family medicine receive minimal funding from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, a situation that could greatly impact public health, experts say.
Researchers at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation analyzed NIH grants from 2002-2006. They also tracked the enrollment of family medicine physicians membership on NIH advisory boards. These boards review research and set research agendas for NIH institutes and centers.
Over those years, there were marginal increases in funding for family medicine, the researchers found. In 2006, family medicine received $187 million in total grants -- only 0.2 percent of the $95.3 billion total awards that NIH granted that year. More than half of all family medicine departments received no NIH grants and nearly 75 percent of family medicine grants came from just six of NIH's 24 grant-funding institutes and centers.
The study also found that family medicine has minimal representation on NIH advisory committees. There were only 21 family medicine department members among the almost 5,500 members of NIH's 295 committees and subcommittees. Of those 21, only nine were family physicians. Members of family medicine departments were present on only 6.4 percent of NIH committees and subcommittees, which means they accounted for less than 0.38 percent of all NIH advisory committee members.
The findings appear in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.
"Our study shows that when it comes to influence at the NIH, family medicine doesn't really have a seat at the table," study author Dr. Sean C. Lucan said in a news release. "Lack of family medicine involvement in the planning and performance of NIH-funded research represents a missed opportunity that has implications for biomedical research in this country, its relevance to patient care, and the greater good of public health in the country."
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