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Landmark heart study hit hard by sequestration

The Framingham Heart Study (FHS), the world's longest-running cardiovascular epidemiological study, has spanned three generations of Framingham, Mass., residents, and has yielded valuable information about risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Now the study is being hit hard by sequestration.

A July 20th statement details a $4 million cut, equal to 40 percent of the study's funding from NIH's National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, effective August 1. The cut will lead to reductions in workforce, clinical exams, and lab operations. 

According to the FHS website (link below), though necessary adjustments will have have to be made, medical data will still be collected and planned research projects will remain. The FHS is currently seeking other funding resources to fill in the gaps and to reduce the impact of cuts on future research.

Beginning in 1948, the FHS study has a long history and has provided significant information with regards to heart disease. At its inception the study began by following over 5,000 residents with an effort to "identify the common factors or characteristics that contribute to CVD [Cardiovascular Disease] by following its development over a long period of time in a large group of participants who had not yet developed overt symptoms of CVD or suffered a heart attack or stroke."

The FHS is an example of a prospective cohort study, where patients are followed over many years. As can be imagined, this type of study can be extremely costly. However, before the FHS, little was known about CVS or heart disease, and indeed, much of what is currently known is information derived out of this study. For example, identification of major risk factors for heart disease development, including high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, smoking, obesity, diabetes, and physical inactivity, were derived from this study.

It is worth noting that heart disease represents the leading cause of deaths in the U.S. (according to the CDC) and likely also a significant portion of other western countries. It is reasonable to assume that had the FHS not been initiated, the number of deaths attributed to heart disease would be much higher. Having said this, it is clear that we do not have unlimited resources to fund all of medical research. However it is also important to remain committed to research projects that have yielded tremendous knowledge and have substantially advanced public health such as the FHS.

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