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About NIH

About NIH

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services External Web Site Policy , is the nation’s medical research agency—making important discoveries that improve health and save lives.

Thanks in large part to NIH-funded medical research, Americans today are living longer and healthier. Life expectancy in the United States has jumped from 47 years in 1900 to 78 years as reported in 2009, and disability in people over age 65 has dropped dramatically in the past 3 decades. In recent years, nationwide rates of new diagnoses and deaths from all cancers combined have fallen significantly.

Scientific Leadership

NIH is the largest source of funding for medical research in the world, creating hundreds of thousands of high-quality jobs by funding thousands of scientists in universities and research institutions in every state across America and around the globe.

NIH is made up of 27 Institutes and Centers, each with a specific research agenda, often focusing on particular diseases or body systems. NIH leadership plays an active role in shaping the agency's research planning, activities, and outlook.

The Office of the Director is the central office at NIH, responsible for setting policy for NIH and for planning, managing, and coordinating the programs and activities of all the NIH components. The NIH Director, with a unique and critical perspective on the entire agency, is responsible for providing leadership to the Institutes and for constantly identifying needs and opportunities, especially for efforts that involve multiple Institutes. The NIH Director is assisted by the NIH Deputy Directors including the Principal Deputy Director, who shares in the overall direction of the agency's activities.

NIH is responsive to Congressional legislation that adjusts NIH's programs to meet changing research needs. As a result of the NIH reauthorization process, NIH is able to respond strategically in an era when medical research requires constant innovation and increased interdisciplinary efforts.

More than 80% of the NIH's budget goes to more than 300,000 research personnel at over 2,500 universities and research institutions. In addition, about 6,000 scientists work in NIH’s own Intramural Research laboratories, most of which are on the NIH main campus in Bethesda, Maryland. The main campus is also home to the NIH Clinical Center, the largest hospital in the world totally dedicated to clinical research.

Successful biomedical research depends on the talent and dedication of the scientific workforce. NIH supports many innovative training programs and funding mechanisms that foster scientific creativity and exploration. The goal is to strengthen our nation’s research capacity, broaden our research base, and inspire a passion for science in current and future generations of researchers.

NIH encourages and depends on public involvement in federally supported research and activities. NIH’s wide-ranging public efforts include outreach and education, nationwide events, requests for public input on NIH projects, and special programs designed specifically to involve public representatives in clinical research.

A History of Health

For over a century, NIH scientists have paved the way for important discoveries that improve health and save lives. In fact, 145 Nobel Prize winners have received support from NIH. Their studies have led to the development of MRI, understanding of how viruses can cause cancer, insights into cholesterol control, and knowledge of how our brain processes visual information, among dozens of other advances. Read more about NIH history

This page last reviewed on November 10, 2014

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