Friends of NCHS FY2020 Statement


Friends of NCHS Fiscal Year 2020 Recommendation
for the National Center for Health Statistics

The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) is the nation’s principal health statistics agency. Housed within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it provides critical data on all aspects of public health and the health care system through data cooperatives and surveys that serve as a gold standard for data collection around the world. The 60 undersigned members of the Friends of NCHS urge appropriators to protect NCHS’s budget from further cuts and provide the agency with $175 million in budget authority in FY 2020, $15 million more than FY 2019.

NCHS collects data on chronic disease prevalence, health disparities, emergency room use, teen pregnancy, infant mortality, causes of death, and rates of insurance, to name a few. These data are used by the Census Bureau in informing its population estimates and projections; by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in developing nutrition policies that guide multibillion dollar federal food assistance programs; by state and local governments and public health officials; by federal policymakers; and by demographers, epidemiologists, health services researchers, and other scientists. In the last year, critical research findings, including the number of deaths attributable to the opioid epidemic, decreased life expectancy in the U.S., and trends in fertility rates, were informed by NCHS data. NCHS health data are an essential part of the nation’s statistical and public health infrastructure.

We greatly appreciate Congress’s longstanding leadership in securing steady and sustained funding increases for NCHS, including efforts to modernize the National Vital Statistics System—moving from paper-based to electronic filing of birth and death statistics—with a $5 million increase in FY 2016. Thanks to Congressional support, NCHS has funded states and territories to speed the release of birth and death statistics, including infant mortality and prescription drug overdose deaths. In fact, the percentage of mortality records reported within 10 days has increased from 14 percent in 2012 to almost 50 percent in 2016.

Nevertheless, since 2011, NCHS has been essentially flat funded, greatly diminishing the agency’s purchasing power. Current base funding remains below FY 2010 levels, adjusted for inflation, and the agency does not expect to ever recover the roughly $25 million in supplemental Prevention and Public Health Fund dollars it lost in 2013. NCHS also faces increasing costs on the horizon associated with state and vendor contracts and other infrastructure challenges related to survey redesign and systems improvements that will require additional resources far beyond current levels. Any cuts below the agency’s FY 2019 level, however seemingly minor, would have a demonstrably negative effect on the agency’s programs, survey data, and staff.

For example, if NCHS’s budget is reduced below its FY 2019 funding level, NCHS will need to consider eliminating or radically altering one of its two seminal surveys: the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS)—the principal data source for studying demographic, socioeconomic, and behavioral differences in health and mortality outcomes since 1957—or the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which has assessed the health and nutritional status of adults and children in the United States since the early 1960s. Despite making marginal adjustments to accommodate years of budget cuts, including reducing sample size and delaying necessary survey innovations, the agency cannot responsibly sustain these surveys if its funding level dips below the amount it received in FY 2019, $160 million.

Congress’ leadership has helped NCHS rebuild after many years of underinvestment and stabilized the collection of essential health data. Cuts to NCHS’s budget now will only undermine progress made over the last decade. We urge lawmakers to protect NCHS’s budget from further cuts and by providing the agency with $175 million in FY 2020.

For more information, visit Friends of NCHS or email Julia Milton, Chair.

Friends of NCHS FY 2020 Recommendation
Endorsements as of March 15, 2019

1,000 Days

Academic Pediatric Association

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics AcademyHealth

Advocates for Better Children’s Diets

American Academy of Pediatrics

American Anthropological Association

American Association for Clinical Chemistry

American Association for Dental Research

American Association of Colleges of Nursing

American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy

American Association on Health and Disability

American College of Clinical Pharmacy

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

American College of Preventive Medicine

American Educational Research

Association American Heart Association

American Pediatric Society American Psychological

Association American Public Health

Association American Society for Nutrition

American Society for Reproductive Medicine

American Society on Aging American Sociological

Association American Statistical Association

Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum

Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs

Association of Medical School Pediatric Department Chairs

Association of Population Centers

Association of Public Data Users

Association of Public Health Laboratories

Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health California Center for Population Research at UCLA

Children’s Environmental Health Network

Commissioned Officers Association of the U.S. Public Health Service, Inc.

Consortium of Social Science Associations

Council of Professional Associations on Federal Statistics

Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists

CUNY Institute for Demographic Research

Federation of Associations in Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social

Research Lakeshore Foundation March of Dimes

National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information Systems

National LGBT Cancer Network

Pediatric Policy Council

Population Association of America

Power to Decide

Prevent Blindness

Princeton University, Office of Population Research

Safe States Alliance

Shady Grove Fertility

Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine

Society for Pediatric Research

Society for Public Health Education

University of California, Irvine, Center for

Demographic and Social Analysis

University of Colorado at Boulder, CU Population Program

University of Michigan, Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research

University of Michigan, Population Studies Center, Institute for Social Research

University of Washington, Center for Studies in Demography & Ecology