US taxpayers fund health studies in Bangladesh

US taxpayers are funding millions of dollars in grants to study health in faraway places such as Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, as well as the health effects of cook stoves, commonly used in places such as Central America and India, National Institutes of Health grants show.

At the University of Colorado, professor Jane A. Menken has received more than $3.1 million bd-us-flag1since 2010 to study the “Long-term effects of health and development interactions in rural Bangladesh,” NIH records show.

“Maternal and child health and family planning are essential to public health programs worldwide,” the study’s Public Health Relevance Statement says. “Their effectiveness in improving child health and their relationship to fertility reduction in developing countries is well established … The study will inform evidence-based public health policy and strategies to improve health.”

Also at CU, Professor Thomas B. Campbell received $2.8 million over the past three years to study “Strategies to improve Kaposi’s Sarcoma outcomes in Zimbabwe,” NIH documents show.

SAVING THE WORLD: CU professor Thomas Campbell said the United States should help other countries because we can afford to do it.

The “project will provide practical information about how to improve treatment of AIDS-KS and thereby improve outcomes of antiretroviral treatment in Zimbabwe and other African countries that have a high burden of this cancer,” the grant statement said.

Campbell said the research will help nurses, who provide much of the AIDS care in Africa, quickly recognize the cancer — the third leading cause of AIDS deaths in Africa. But he conceded the research won’t really affect care in the United States.

When asked why U.S. taxpayers should be funding it, Campbell said that’s what makes the United States great.

“We should fund it for the same reason we pay for other things: We’re in position to be able to do it,” he said. “To me [national], boundaries are just lines drawn on a map. We’re all one race of human beings, and we need to take care of each other.”

But Jon Caldara, president of the Independence Institute, a free-market think tank in Denver, said government funding of these types of studies isn’t what the authors of the Constitution intended.

“What are the core functions of government under Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution?” he asked after read him some of the NIH research summaries. “I don’t see Zimbabwe in there.”

Menken did not return a call and email seeking comment.

At Colorado State University, cook stoves — stoves in developing countries that use wood, charcoal or animal dung to heat and cook food — are big topics of research, costing taxpayers more than $2 million over the past few years.

CSU assistant professor Maggie Lynn Clark obtained awards totaling $875,000 to research a tool to advance cook stove interventions, the grant says. The money will fund an independent research in air pollution from the stoves.

UP IN SMOKE: Despite taxpayers paying $875,000 to research cook stoves in other countries, CU researcher Maggie Clark declined to discuss her work.

Reached at her office, Clark said she was headed to a meeting but would “think about” discussing the research that taxpayers fund.

“I’m not going to get involved in a political discussion about it,” she said in the brief exchange. She never returned the call.

The grant summary notes that 3 billion people rely on solid fuel combustible cooking in poor ventilation that leads to 1.6 million premature deaths.

Clark’s colleague at CSU, associate professor Jennifer Peel, is also studying the pollution dangers of cook stoves.

“Hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent on improved stove design and dissemination, yet the health benefits from specific stove technologies are unknown,” the grant justification says. “This is the first study to examine the relationship between markers of cardiorespiratory health and exposure to broad range of stove technologies, informing future directions for stove programs while providing needed insight into the question, ‘How clean is clean enough.’”

U.S. taxpayers have paid $1.1 million for the study since last year, but Peel did not return a call and email seeking comment.

Caldara said the problem is that the United States has overwhelming debt and unnecessary programs — like these grants — should be cut.

“Most of this is paid for by money that doesn’t exist,” he said. “The biggest crime is we’re putting future generations into debt.”

NIH issued a blanket statement to, saying all grants go through two levels of peer review before obtaining funding, but public relations staff declined to provide a representative to justify the expenditures.

“NIH’s mission is to seek fundamental knowledge about the nature and behavior of living systems and apply that knowledge to enhance health, lengthen life, and reduce illness and disability,” the statement said.