Durbin Delivers Speech At American Heart Association's 100th Anniversary Event

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America, with heart defects being the most common birth defect

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Co-Chair of the Congressional Heart and Stroke Caucus, today delivered remarks at the American Heart Association’s 100th anniversary event.  In his remarks, Durbin emphasized the importance of strong and sustained funding increases for medical and scientific research centers to ensure that the U.S. moves medical research forward to prevent disease and improve treatments for patients.  Since 2015, Durbin has successfully secured a nearly 60 percent annual funding increase for the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Durbin highlighted the American Heart Association’s leading role in helping to prevent youth tobacco use and hold Big Tobacco accountable, by ensuring the Food and Drug Administration exercises its regulatory authority and supporting legislative efforts to reduce smoking and e-cigarette use. 

Durbin also spoke about his bipartisan Congenital Heart Futures Reauthorization Act, legislation that extends funding for public health efforts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to improve childhood survival rates, prevent premature death and disability, and increase quality of life for the two-and-a-half million Americans living with congenital heart disease (CHD).

In 2018, Durbin and U.S. Senator Todd Young (R-IN) led the effort to reauthorize CDC’s CHD program and expand its scope to gather epidemiological and longitudinal data on CHD patients across the lifespan, in order to improve health outcomes and reduce medical costs.  Further, the 2018 reauthorization promoted awareness efforts, given that many adults living with CHD are unaware that they require specialized, long-term care, and fewer than 10 percent of adults living with complex CHD currently receive the recommended care.  CDC’s program received $8.25 million in Fiscal Year 2024 appropriations, more than double the program’s funding level in 2018.

Pediatric CHD hospitalizations cost $9.8 billion annually.  Early detection of congenital heart defects can be lifesaving. Thanks to significant strides in screening rates and surgical procedures, an estimated 80 percent of youth with CHD now survive at least 35 years. However, there is no cure.  As adult survivors age, they require lifelong, specialized care, and some patients face ongoing and additional health challenges, including an increased risk of disability, co-morbidities, and premature death.

Durbin first introduced the Congenital Heart Futures Act in 2009 with then-Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS).  The bill was included in the Affordable Care Act, and supported research to build a set of best practices and understanding for how to screen and care for newborns with health defects. 

A photo of the event can be found here and Durbin’s remarks as prepared for delivery are below:

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin Remarks at American Heart Association 100th Anniversary Event

May 22, 2024

As prepared for delivery

Thank you to Nancy Brown for that introduction, and thanks to the American Heart Association for having me here today.  Congratulations on your centennial anniversary.

Over the last 100 years, we have made remarkable progress in preventing and treating cardiovascular disease, and improving health for all Americans. 

You have been an incredible partner on preventing children from picking up tobacco products.

The results speak for themselves:  We have lowered youth smoking rates from 28 percent in 2020 to 2 percent today. 

But you also have led the way on funding medical research to improve our understanding of heart disease, identify targets for medicines, and enhance surgical options.

From 2015 to 2023, we increased the annual budget for the National Institutes of Health by 60 percent, from $30 billion to nearly $50 billion today. 

But this year’s budget leaves much to be desired.  It only provided a meager 2 percent increase to NIH’s funding in FY24—barely keeping pace with inflation.

Failing to adequately fund NIH would be devastating for patients, our economy, and our leadership on cardiovascular research. 

NIH funding, and the issue of heart disease, is personal to me.

Every fifteen minutes in America, a baby is born with a heart defect.  It is the most common and most fatal birth defect. 

My daughter was born with one.  But because of investments in medical research and surgical advances, more than 90 percent of children with congenital heart defects survive into adulthood.

Thanks to this progress, the focus of the medical community has expanded from making sure newborns can survive with a heart defect, to improving care to address lifelong needs.

Since 2018, we have doubled the CDC’s budget for tracking and researching children and adults with heart defects.  The American Heart Association has been a pivotal partner in this work. 

Tomorrow, the Senate HELP Committee will advance my bipartisan bill with Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) to reauthorize CDC’s Congenital Heart Disease program for another five years. 

I encourage each of you to keep using your voices to advocate for the millions of Americans facing heart disease.  Your voices are essential to providing hope.

Thanks for all that you do.  You can count on me as your partner as you head into your second century of this life-saving work.