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The National Institutes of Health boasts a 2017 budget of $33.1 billion, up $825 million from 2016. In the coming year, the massive federal agency will support 36,440 research grants, an increase of 600 from 2016. As Claudia Buck notes in the Sacramento Bee, the NIH will give $2.3 million to University of California at Davis to study how exercise works inside the human body, part of a $170 million nationwide study.
UC Davis will be working with “more than 1,500 rats over six years, putting them through the human equivalent of endurance exercise, such as treadmill running, for eight to 12 weeks. Later, the rats will be euthanized so researchers can dissect and analyze their muscles, tissues, blood and organs to gauge the effects of exercise.” Studies will also be conducted on human subjects, “minus the organ dissection.” UC Davis physiologist Sue Bodine claims the study could eventually help doctors prescribe specific types of exercise, both to help people stay healthy and to prevent or treat diseases, such as diabetes or Alzheimer’s.
On the other hand, the study could also be an example of the federal gravy train funding waste. As Claudia Buck proclaims at the outset of her story: “We all know exercise is good for us.” So six years of putting 1500 rats through the treadmill is more about the redistribution of money than medical science. For its part, UC Davis knows how to throw money around.
As we noted, UC Davis pepper sprayed protesting students and paid a settlement of $1 million, more than half of it going to consultants. Chancellor Linda Katehi spent $407,000 to shore up her image on the Internet. She kept three family members on the payroll and promoted one to “assistant vice chancellor.” Katehi resigned in August but as Sacramento Bee reporter Diana Lambert notes, she “will take advantage of a University of California perk that allows campus leaders to receive chancellor-level pay with few responsibilities for one year.” Katehi will continue to receive her salary of $424,360 plus retirement and health benefits, but she will not have to teach any classes.
This record of waste and unaccountability proved no obstacle to a $2.3 million NIH grant for a useless study. We already know exercise is good for us. Medical waste is bad for taxpayers.