NIH awards millions for aging survey, HIV self-testing app, smoking cessation in China

U.S. taxpayers would probably prefer that we not "invest in communist countries that give us global pandemics, steal our intellectual property, and commit genocide on religious minorities," writes Sen. James Lankford.

Updated: June 25, 2022 - 11:19pm

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The Golden Horseshoe is a weekly designation from Just The News intended to highlight egregious examples of wasteful taxpayer spending by the government. The award is named for the horseshoe-shaped toilet seats for military airplanes that cost the Pentagon a whopping $640 each back in the 1980s.

This week's Golden Horseshoe is awarded once again to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), this time for spending millions to support aging surveys, "culturally appropriate" anti-smoking efforts, and a mobile app for self-HIV testing in China, an adversarial power which boasts the second largest economy in the world.

Several NIH grants benefiting China were cited by Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Lankford in the latest volume of "Federal Fumbles," his annual compilation of wasteful spending by the federal government. 

"The NIH awarded millions of dollars directly to China during the pandemic, $1.7 million of which was given to Peking University to fund the China Health and Retirement Study, which develops an aging survey for China," reports Lankford.

In addition to the $1.7 million grant for the aging study in 2021, another $900,000 was awarded in 2022, the grant documents show. The study began in 2010, and the total U.S. taxpayer bill for the study has now reached $12.9 million.

The ongoing research "has already begun to enrich the international landscape of aging studies," according to the Public Health Relevance Statement in the grant documents. 

Affectionately dubbed "CHARLS," the study "follows closely the existing Health and Retirement Studies around the world in order to provide the capability for scholars to engage in comparative studies as well as studies of the special conditions in China," according to funding documents.

Another NIH grant benefiting communist-ruled China was focused on smoking cessation both there and in its communist-dominated neighbor, Vietnam. 

The agency awarded $282,000 to Georgia State University in 2021 for a research project entitled "Cultural Adaptation and Evaluation of Health Interventions for Smoking Cessation in China and Vietnam."

Citing the "substantial adaptations of existing" mobile health technology (mHealth) "needed to address the unique sociocultural barriers to quitting smoking for Chinese and Vietnamese smokers," the project aims to "build and strengthen the capacity to develop and disseminate evidence-based, culturally appropriate interventions for smoking cessation using mHealth approaches in China and Vietnam."

The 2021 grant was one of six awarded for the same program from 2017 through 2021, and total U.S. taxpayer funding has now reached $1.6 million, the grant history shows.

"Why do Americans need to pay for China to study anti-smoking efforts?" asks Lankford in his report. 

Just The News found additional NIH funding related to China, including $1.7 million for a mobile app to increase HIV self-testing for high-risk men in China and $298,000 awarded to China's National Center for AIDS/STD Control and Prevention to strengthen research integrity.

"American taxpayers would probably rather not see us invest in communist countries that give us global pandemics, steal our intellectual property, and commit genocide on religious minorities," Lankford writes.

The NIH did not respond to a request for comment for this story.