The deadliest, underfunded diseases in the US

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The Most Underfunded Deadly Diseases in the US

By Sabrina Perry, Graphiq

Deciding how much research funding gets allocated to each disease is a perpetually contentious issue.

Every year, doctors, scientist and policymakers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) -- the health research arm of the U.S. government -- must make critical decisions and evaluate which diseases pose the biggest public health threat and, therefore, which get the most money.

Though some believe mortality rate is the primary concern, the NIH considers many other factors. Morbidity, financial cost and disability worldwide, both current and projected, all play into the evaluated burden of disease.

Scroll through the gallery below to see all the underfunded deadly diseases:

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The deadliest, underfunded diseases in the US

18. Prostate cancer

Funding per Death: $10,395
Deaths in 2013: 27,682
Total Funding in 2015: $287,746,995
Average Funding Per Death for All Diseases (in the U.S.): $11,691

17. Ovarian Cancer

Funding per Death: $8,282
Deaths in 2013: 14,276
Total Funding in 2015: $118,228,637
Average Funding Per Death for All Diseases (in the U.S.): $11,691

16. Chronic Liver Disease and Cirrhosis

Funding per Death: $8,087
Deaths in 2013: 36,427
Total Funding in 2015: $294,592,023
Average Funding Per Death for All Diseases (in the U.S.): $11,691

15. Alzheimer's Disease

Funding per Death: $6,951
Deaths in 2013: 84,767
Total Funding in 2015: $589,204,366
Average Funding Per Death for All Diseases (in the U.S.): $11,691

14. Colo-Rectal Cancer

Funding per Death: $5,905
Deaths in 2013: 52,252
Total Funding in 2015: $308,539,973
Average Funding Per Death for All Diseases (in the U.S.): $11,691

13. Parkinson's Disease

Funding per Death: $5,804
Deaths in 2013: 25,196
Total Funding in 2015: $146,226,134
Average Funding Per Death for All Diseases (in the U.S.): $11,691

12. Hypertension

Funding per Death: $5,763
Deaths in 2013: 37,144
Total Funding in 2015: $214,050,133
Average Funding Per Death for All Diseases (in the U.S.): $11,691

11. Uterine Cancer

Funding per Death: $5,598
Deaths in 2013: 9,325
Total Funding in 2015: $52,205,435
Average Funding Per Death for All Diseases (in the U.S.): $11,691

10. Digestive Diseases - Peptic Ulcer

Funding per Death: $5,191
Deaths in 2013: 2,988
Total Funding in 2015: $15,510,306
Average Funding Per Death for All Diseases (in the U.S.): $11,691

9. Pancreatic Cancer

Funding per Death: $4,460
Deaths in 2013: 38,996
Total Funding in 2015: $173,911,461
Average Funding Per Death for All Diseases (in the U.S.): $11,691

8. Liver Cancer

Funding per Death: $3,539
Deaths in 2013: 24,032
Total Funding in 2015: $85,058,323
Average Funding Per Death for All Diseases (in the U.S.): $11,691

7. Septicemia

Funding per Death: $2,711
Deaths in 2013: 38,156
Total Funding in 2015: $103,427,554
Average Funding Per Death for All Diseases (in the U.S.): $11,691

6. Digestive Diseases - Gallbladder

Funding per Death: $2,374
Deaths in 2013: 3,377
Total Funding in 2015: $8,015,404
Average Funding Per Death for All Diseases (in the U.S.): $11,691

5. Stroke

Funding per Death: $2,233
Deaths in 2013: 128,978
Total Funding in 2015: $287,984,427
Average Funding Per Death for All Diseases (in the U.S.): $11,691

4. Lung Cancer

Funding per Death: $2,232
Deaths in 2013: 156,252
Total Funding in 2015: $348,755,072
Average Funding Per Death for All Diseases (in the U.S.): $11,691

3. Pneumonia

Funding per Death: $2,100
Deaths in 2013: 53,282
Total Funding in 2015: $111,914,006
Average Funding Per Death for All Diseases(in the U.S.): $11,691

2. Heart Disease

Funding per Death: $2,065
Deaths in 2013: 611,105
Total Funding in 2015: $1,261,640,505
Average Funding Per Death for All Diseases (in the U.S.): $11,691

1. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Funding per Death: $663
Deaths in 2013: 145,575
Total Funding in 2015: $96,584,162
Average Funding Per Death for All Diseases (in the U.S.): $11,691

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While the NIH commits billions of dollars to fighting diseases around the world, the organization is funded by U.S. taxpayer dollars. Some point out that the organization's funding doesn't always match the need at home in the U.S.

Take malaria, for example. While this disease caused 438,000 deaths worldwide in 2015, it only killed 10 in the U.S. in 2013. But, American taxpayers paid roughly $163 million in NIH malaria research funding in 2015. That's $16.3 million in funding per American death to malaria. In comparison, consider that the average funding per death in America -- when accounting for the NIH's full $30.4 billion budget -- is a mere $11,691. In the scope of the U.S., that makes malaria, at approximately 1,362 times the average funding, disproportionately overfunded.

On the flip side, many deadly diseases in the U.S. could be considered underfunded -- receiving less funding per death than the average of $11,691.

Lung cancer is notorious for this. In 2008, the New York Times noted the limited funding per death, and that still holds today. This disease killed 156,252 people in 2013 and in 2015 it received $348,755,072 in funding. That shakes out to only $2,232 per death. And a few other common diseases receive even less still.

Commenting on a 2011 study he did, Clairborne Johnston, the dean of the Dell Medical School, noted that it appears "we underfund things where we blame the victim." Given the connection between smoking and lung cancer, this might explain the disease's current funding, or lack thereof.

Using data from the NIH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the experts at HealthGrove discovered the 18 deadliest, underfunded diseases in the U.S. These diseases all receive less funding per death than the $11,691 average.

It is important to note that many diseases not listed may be underfunded considering the pain and disability they cause. For example, migraines negatively affect the lives of many people, but they are not included on this list because they do not directly cause death.

#18. Prostate Cancer

Funding per Death: $10,395
Deaths in 2013: 27,682
Total Funding in 2015: $287,746,995
Average Funding Per Death for All Diseases (in the U.S.): $11,691

#17. Ovarian Cancer

Funding per Death: $8,282
Deaths in 2013: 14,276
Total Funding in 2015: $118,228,637
Average Funding Per Death for All Diseases (in the U.S.): $11,691

#16. Chronic Liver Disease and Cirrhosis


Funding per Death: $8,087
Deaths in 2013: 36,427
Total Funding in 2015: $294,592,023
Average Funding Per Death for All Diseases (in the U.S.): $11,691

#15. Alzheimer's Disease

Funding per Death: $6,951
Deaths in 2013: 84,767
Total Funding in 2015: $589,204,366
Average Funding Per Death for All Diseases (in the U.S.): $11,691

#14. Colo-Rectal Cancer

Funding per Death: $5,905
Deaths in 2013: 52,252
Total Funding in 2015: $308,539,973
Average Funding Per Death for All Diseases (in the U.S.): $11,691

#13. Parkinson's Disease

Funding per Death: $5,804
Deaths in 2013: 25,196
Total Funding in 2015: $146,226,134
Average Funding Per Death for All Diseases (in the U.S.): $11,691

#12. Hypertension

Funding per Death: $5,763
Deaths in 2013: 37,144
Total Funding in 2015: $214,050,133
Average Funding Per Death for All Diseases (in the U.S.): $11,691

#11. Uterine Cancer

Funding per Death: $5,598
Deaths in 2013: 9,325
Total Funding in 2015: $52,205,435
Average Funding Per Death for All Diseases (in the U.S.): $11,691

#10. Digestive Diseases - (Peptic Ulcer)

Funding per Death: $5,191
Deaths in 2013: 2,988
Total Funding in 2015: $15,510,306
Average Funding Per Death for All Diseases (in the U.S.): $11,691

#9. Pancreatic Cancer

Funding per Death: $4,460
Deaths in 2013: 38,996
Total Funding in 2015: $173,911,461
Average Funding Per Death for All Diseases (in the U.S.): $11,691

#8. Liver Cancer

Funding per Death: $3,539
Deaths in 2013: 24,032
Total Funding in 2015: $85,058,323
Average Funding Per Death for All Diseases (in the U.S.): $11,691

#7. Septicemia

Funding per Death: $2,711
Deaths in 2013: 38,156
Total Funding in 2015: $103,427,554
Average Funding Per Death for All Diseases (in the U.S.): $11,691

#6. Digestive Diseases - (Gallbladder)

Funding per Death: $2,374
Deaths in 2013: 3,377
Total Funding in 2015: $8,015,404
Average Funding Per Death for All Diseases (in the U.S.): $11,691

#5. Stroke

Funding per Death: $2,233
Deaths in 2013: 128,978
Total Funding in 2015: $287,984,427
Average Funding Per Death for All Diseases (in the U.S.): $11,691

#4. Lung Cancer

Funding per Death: $2,232
Deaths in 2013: 156,252
Total Funding in 2015: $348,755,072
Average Funding Per Death for All Diseases (in the U.S.): $11,691

#3. Pneumonia

Funding per Death: $2,100
Deaths in 2013: 53,282
Total Funding in 2015: $111,914,006
Average Funding Per Death for All Diseases(in the U.S.): $11,691

#2. Heart Disease

Funding per Death: $2,065
Deaths in 2013: 611,105
Total Funding in 2015: $1,261,640,505
Average Funding Per Death for All Diseases (in the U.S.): $11,691

#1. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Funding per Death: $663
Deaths in 2013: 145,575
Total Funding in 2015: $96,584,162
Average Funding Per Death for All Diseases (in the U.S.): $11,691

Research Diseases on HealthGrove

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