Research funding at top of mind for new heart association president

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Tomaselli and others argue that every dollar spent at NIH produces between $2 and $3 of goods and services, thereby improving both the nation's physical and fiscal health. He also cautions that research cuts could imperil the nation's domination in higher education, creating a reverse brain drain to Asia and elsewhere.

Other priorities, he said, include continuing to advocate for the coverage expansions of the healthcare reform law, especially for preventive care.

"Ultimately," he said, "I don't think we can get our hands around cost — whether it's cardiovascular disease, or diabetes, or cancer — unless we redouble our efforts in preventive work."

The nation's largest cardiovascular health organization also wants to tackle the nation's looming health problems, including smoking, which is still enjoyed by about 20 percent of Americans and is a rising health problem worldwide; childhood obesity; and excessive salt consumption.

"We've had a little bit of disagreement with the FDA on this point," Tomaselli said. "We both believe that salt reduction is an important issue, but we have had differences in the target that we need to shoot for. We're in favor of a more aggressive target [1,500 mg daily vs. 2,300 mg for the FDA]."

The AHA has been calling for more informative food labeling as the preferred way to tackle nutrition issues.

"Our stance right now is more of providing information for people to make the right decisions for themselves rather than enforcing regulation," he said. "The bottom line is that if you inform people the hope is that regulations will come as the demand for lower salt food, etc., etc., increases."