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Our Health

Over the years, our nation has made impressive gains in health and longevity. A driving force behind that progress has been medical research supported by NIH.

Photo of a doctor and a young patient.

Thanks in large part to NIH research, Americans are living nearly 30 years longer than they did in 1900.  Not only have these gains in longevity enriched many lives, they have added an estimated $3.2 trillion annually to the U.S. economy since 1970.

What’s more, Americans are not just living longer, they are staying active longer. In the last 25 years, the proportion of older people with chronic disabilities has dropped by nearly one-third.  

Such progress is made possible by NIH’s support of many different types of research focused on a wide range of conditions. Here’s an overview of a few of the major health advances fueled by NIH-funded research.


U.S. cancer death rates are now falling about 1% each year, with each 1% decline saving our nation about $500 billion. There’s also been near-miraculous progress against childhood cancers, with the five-year survival rate for the most common type, acute lymphocytic leukemia, now standing at 90%.

Cardiovascular Disease

U.S. death rates from heart disease and stroke have fallen more than 60% in the last half-century.


A 10-year NIH study found that a diet and exercise program can reduce the incidence of type 2 diabetes among high-risk people by one third. Implementing this program in standard medical practice could save millions of lives and hundreds of billions of health care dollars.


Thanks to anti-viral therapies developed by NIH-funded researchers, HIV-infected people in their 20s today can expect to live to age 70 and beyond. That compares to a life expectancy measured in months when the disease first appeared in the 1980s.

Mother & Child Health

Researchers have found that a synthetic form of a naturally occurring hormone can reduce preterm birth by 45% among at-risk women. This may reduce the serious medical problems and long-lasting disabilities caused by preterm birth, which cost our nation an estimated $26 billion per year.

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This page last reviewed on September 10, 2013

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