Memorandum to Edward Flynn [asking him to take a leadership role in demanding more research and government funds for battling
heart disease, cancer, and mental health disease]
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[United States Congress]
Original Repository: Columbia University. Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Mary Lasker Papers
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Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
Legislation as Topic
Mary Lasker and the Growth of the National Institutes of Health
Support in the Subcommittee on Appropriations is urgently needed for more research and general funds for diseases of the heart,
cancer and mental health for the following reasons:
I. In Heart Diseases because:
(a) This group of diseases are the No. 1 killers of the people of the City of New York, the State of New York, and the United
States. Twice as many died from this group of diseases in 1948 as were killed in the U.S. Armed Forces during the entire period
of World War II.
(b) Between 9,000,000 and 10,000,000 people are suffering from diseases and at least 152,000,000 work days a year are lost
because of these diseases.
(c) There are many research leaves in the field of hypertension and arteriosclerosis which need to be urgently pursued, both
in a laboratory and clinical research level.
(d) Two important therapeutic treatments for rheumatic fever have been discovered within this last year and it is important
that these materials be produced in large quantities and distributed with the greatest speed.
(e) The Federal Government appropriated approximately only $10,000,000 in cash and $6,000,000 in contract authority for the
National Heart Institute of the Public Health Service.
(f) At least $45,000,000 is urgently needed by the National Heart Institute of the U. S. Public Health Service to fight this
major killer of the people of the United States and the City of New York in the fiscal year 1951. This amount is approximately
that which the Department of Agriculture has received to fight hoof and mouth disease in cattle.
Contrasted to this, only around $500,000 was spent by the American Heart Association and its affiliates for heart research
in 1949. Voluntary funds are insufficient for the urgency of this problem.
II. In Cancer because:
(a) Cancer is the No. T killer of the people in the United States.
(b) On the average, one out of eight people die of cancer throughout the United States, but in New York City one out of six
died of it in 1946 (deaths from all causes in New York City, 78,481; total cancer deaths, 14,067.)
(c) Over 19,000,000 people now alive in the United States will die of cancer unless new cures and treatments are found, and
about one out of every five persons will have it at some period in their life.
(d) In a nationwide poll, 87 percent of the people questioned said they believed $100,000,000 should be spent by the government
for cancer research and said they would be willing to pay additional taxes for it.
In contrast to the total of $10,587,000 which is available from public and private sources for cancer research, the people
of the United States spent $32,400,000 for the purchase of pets and their veterinary service!
(e) Of the people who died of cancer in 1946, over half - 92,285 - were under 65 years old.
(f) Research leads in the cancer field are numerous, and need to be energetically supported with money from the federal government.
Hopeful leaves are enhanced both for the use of hormones, ACTH and Cortisone and their related products, through antibiotic
substances, chemical compounds and uses of radioactive materials, both as methods of treatment and as research tools.
For the fiscal year 1948-1949 Congress appropriated only $6,060,000 for cancer research projects, plus $8,000,000 for construction
of research facilities at various institutions. Non-governmental voluntary agencies spent approximately $5,502,000 for cancer
research. This means that we are spending about $55.80 for each cancer death annually, in contrast to the National Foundation
for Infantile Paralysis, which spent for research in 1947 approximately $1,000 per death.
III. In Mental Illness because:
What is the situation in mental illnesses?
(a) About 110,000 individuals are being cared for in the mental hospitals of New York State alone. Approximately half of these
people come from the City of New York.
(b) In the United States, there are total of 635,000 patients in mental hospitals, which means that one out of every two of
the total number of hospital beds in United States is occupied by a mental patient.
(c) Selective Service examinations showed that before induction, 38 percent of the men were rejected for neuropsychiatric
disorders. This means that mental illness is an important problem in the United States.
Eighty-seven percent of mental patients are in State hospitals. Many of these people should be rehabilitated and brought out
of the hospitals by methods now known if there were sufficiently trained personnel to do the work.
In addition to this, research leads are now at hand which might make it possible to rehabilitate at least half of those were
now in the hospital. At present, however, the Federal government is appropriating less than $1.00 per year for each hospitalized
mental patient to find new treatments and cures for mental diseases.
(d) In addition to the enormous loss of work days, income and taxes from this group of 635,000 hospitalized mental patients
in the country, the human tragedy and drain upon family resources is enormous.
At least $35,000,000 should be appropriated for the National Mental Health Institute of the U.S, Public Health Service to
be spent on research projects, construction of research and training facilities, training and research fellowships, and demonstrations
in states for both the care of patients in hospitals and the prevention of mental illness by establishment of child mental
health clinics. The appropriation for fiscal 1950 was about $11,000,000 total, of which less than one million was for research.
Any individual in Congress who takes leadership in demanding that more funds be applied to the two main killers, cancer and
heart diseases, and the three great cripplers heart, cancer and mental diseases, of our citizens is advocating economy in
the long run.