Background and objectives: While the specialty of family practice has achieved parity with other specialties in many areas, it lags behind in research productivity. This article explores current and historical funding levels of family medicine research from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR).
Methods: Funding amounts from NIH to medical schools and family medicine departments were obtained for the years 1984-1997. Funding amounts from AHCPR awarded to family physicians and the total AHCPR research budget were obtained for 1991-1995.
Results: In 1997, family medicine departments were awarded $18.6 million from the NIH, .4% of the NIH research awards. The amount from NIH has increased progressively since 1984, but the proportion of the total NIH budget has increased only marginally (from .3% to .4%). In 1995, family medicine researchers obtained $6.7 million from AHCPR, 4.0% of the AHCPR research budget. Since 1991, this amount has increased slightly, but as a proportion of the AHCPR budget, it has declined (from 4.4% to 4.0%).
Discussion: The NIH is an increasingly important source of support for family medicine researchers, while AHCPR support has plateaued. Even though NIH support of family physician researchers is increasing, the proportion of NIH funding awarded to family medicine departments remains below the proportion of US medical school faculty who are family physicians. One possible cause of this discrepancy is a lack of a locus of primary care and family medicine research funding.