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The deadliest diseases sometimes get the least research money

disease research

(The relationship between research funding and disease, via Dot Data.)

The diseases that affect the most Americans don't always attract more research money from the government.

In this chart, from the Dot Data blog, you can see that some conditions that affect many Americans attract a relatively small amount of research funding from the National Institutes of Health, one of the biggest science funders in the US.

Consider chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a slow degeneration of the lungs that makes it very difficult to breathe. It's the third leading cause of death in the US, yet it ranks near the bottom of relative funding priorities. The same goes for research related to injuries, the fifth leading cause of death.

Meanwhile, some diseases that attract a lot of money — HIV/AIDS, MS — affect a proportionally smaller number of people. These also happen to be diseases that have been highly politicized over the years.

This isn't to minimize any one health issue, and of course, research investments shouldn't only be driven by the burden of disease in a population. As well, the chart only represents one source of health funding. But it's interesting to note that these gaps exist, and to think about what may cause them.

Related reading: The truth about the Ice Bucket Challenge: Viral memes shouldn't dictate our charitable giving