, Volume 38, Issue 7, pp 2237-2251
Date: 12 Mar 2010

Are We Studying What Matters? Health Priorities and NIH-Funded Biomedical Engineering Research

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Abstract

With the founding of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) in 1999, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) made explicit its dedication to expanding research in biomedical engineering. Ten years later, we sought to examine how closely federal funding for biomedical engineering aligns with U.S. health priorities. Using a publicly accessible database of research projects funded by the NIH in 2008, we identified 641 grants focused on biomedical engineering, 48% of which targeted specific diseases. Overall, we found that these disease-specific NIH-funded biomedical engineering research projects align with national health priorities, as quantified by three commonly utilized measures of disease burden: cause of death, disability-adjusted survival losses, and expenditures. However, we also found some illnesses (e.g., cancer and heart disease) for which the number of research projects funded deviated from our expectations, given their disease burden. Our findings suggest several possibilities for future studies that would serve to further inform the allocation of limited research dollars within the field of biomedical engineering.

Associate Editor Scott I. Simon oversaw the review of this article.