Federal Priorities for the 118th Congress: Lung Health

Here are key actions the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), U.S. Congress and other federal leaders must take to protect and improve lung health and reduce the burden of lung disease:

Bolster Public Health Infrastructure

It is crucial to bolster our nation’s public health infrastructure. The failure to adequately fund the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and our nation’s public health infrastructure over the past decade has led to a diminished capacity to prevent and manage diseases. Increasing public health core funding will grow the public health workforce and modernize our public health data and disease tracking systems – allowing us to appropriately respond to future public health emergencies – and must come in concert with funding for individual programs.

CDC has faced severe and significant underfunding that have had a dramatic impact on its ability to respond to health threats and address the social determinants of health that have led to severe health inequities. The public health and research programs carried out by CDC help to prevent lung disease, improve health and, by extension, save the lives of millions of Americans. Congress must make robust investments in our nation’s public health system and support individual programs to ensure a coordinated response to public health challenges.

The COVID-19 pandemic should serve as a reminder for the need to prepare for future public health emergencies. Congress must ensure that depleted stockpiles are restored and that plans are made to prevent exhaustion of resources for future public health emergencies. The Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) requires appropriate funding to maintain a secure level of supplies, including personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators and treatments.

Increase Investments in Biomedical Research

Congress must bolster our nation’s research and development. Robust, sustained and predictable funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is essential to understanding how to prevent and treat lung diseases, including asthma, COPD, influenza, pulmonary fibrosis and lung cancer as well as to make progress in reducing the burden of other diseases.

Each of the individual institutes within NIH, including the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the National Cancer Institute, the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities and the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences, would benefit greatly from and should receive increased funding annually. With increased support, these agencies will be able to continue their investments in research in pursuit of treatments and cures for lung disease. Congress must make sustained investments in each individual institute so that the promise of biomedical research can be achieved.

Improve Quality of Life for People with Chronic Lung Diseases

Chronic lung diseases, such as asthma and COPD, are some of the leading causes of death in the United States and the burden of chronic disease is growing faster than our ability to ease it. Over 25 million individuals in the U.S. have asthma, including 4.2 million children. Asthma costs the U.S. an estimated $82 billion in health care costs, lost productivity and mortality. COPD is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. Additionally, more than 18 million U.S. adults have evidence of impaired lung function, indicating an underdiagnosis of COPD.

The NACP tracks asthma prevalence, promotes asthma control and prevention and builds capacity in state programs. This program has been highly effective, however, currently only 25 states, territories and municipalities receive funding – leaving a nationwide public health void that can lead to unnecessary asthma-related attacks and healthcare costs. Congress must expand funding of the NACP to at least $40 million for FY24, ultimately increase funding for the program to $65 million to fund all 50 states plus territories and pass the Family Asthma Act.

The CDEA program gives CDC the flexibility to invest in initiatives that increase public and professional awareness about chronic health conditions that do not have a designated funding line in the CDC budget. Since FY21, CDC has awarded six competitive grants – including one to increase awareness of COPD. Given the strong demand for this emerging program and its ability to address several chronic health care conditions, Congress must increase funding to $6 million for the CDEA in FY24.

At the request of congressional leaders, the NIH and CDC created a National COPD Action Plan. This plan outlines measures to address COPD in this country, including ways to empower patients and raise awareness, increase surveillance and improve the standard of care. While great strides have been made, it is time for federal agencies, working together with relevant external partners, to fully implement the National COPD Action Plan.

Strengthen Lung Cancer Programs

Recognizing that lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related death among all individuals in the U.S. Congress must increase funding to support public health strategies to address lung cancer and for lung cancer research. The five-year survival rate for lung cancer is only 22%, but it increases to 61% for cases diagnosed early.

NIH and DOD play a critical role in advancing research to better understand and treat lung cancer. NIH research on lung cancer and the peer-reviewed lung cancer research program at DOD facilitate both ongoing and emerging activities that advance scientific understanding of lung cancer. Congress must continue to invest in the vital research taking place at both NIH and DOD.

Improving survival rates for lung cancer will require a comprehensive approach that includes risk reduction strategies, improving utilization of screening for those at high risk, eliminating disparities in lung cancer treatments, and many other strategies. Congress must increase funding for CDC’s Cancer Control Program to develop and implement public health strategies to address lung cancer. 

Prevent and Support People with Infectious Diseases

Recognizing the global nature of infectious disease, Congress must ensure vigorous investments in both domestic and global infectious disease prevention, monitoring and mitigation to protect our nation from future infectious diseases pandemics.

In the Inflation Reduction Act, Congress included new policies to improve access and remove financial barriers to recommended vaccines in Medicare and Medicaid. The administration should quickly implement these important policies.

TB outbreaks continue to occur across the country in schools, workplaces and prisons, costing the U.S. over $460 million annually. In order to continue our progress towards the elimination of TB in this country, Congress must provide $225 million for CDC’s state and local TB programs.

While millions of Americans have recovered from COVID-19, many individuals are experiencing lingering, returning or new symptoms post-infection. Congress and the administration must fund research to find new treatments for these symptoms and increase support for those living with long COVID.

Page last updated: January 4, 2023

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