NIH Spending Versus Diseases That Kill Us

An infographic has been making the rounds lately, purporting to depict the amount of money donated to help fight various diseases versus the number of actual deaths caused by each disease. This is the original infographic:


Many concerns have been raised regarding its content and presentation, see for example this post by Phil Price. Thankfully, the folks at Cool Infographics took it upon themselves to correct some of the issues, and they’ve generated several new infographics that address many of the problems of the original. Below is my favorite one:


One remaining problem however is that these infographics only depict the donations made to specific organizations, making it difficult to get a sense of the total spending on each disease. Fortunately the NIH makes this data available, in terms of NIH dollars. I generated a new infographic to present this information for most of the diseases in the original visualization.

NIH Spending (8-31-14)-01

As you can see the new infographic is not as provocative as the original. I had to leave out HIV because the way NIH computes HIV numbers makes it impossible to compare to other diseases. They also happen to not have a single category for Motor Neuron Diseases.

Having said all this, I do think the spirit of the original message–that our spending is not commensurate with the (global) toll of various diseases–is a sound one.


  1. Very interesting, Mohammed. The first chart, money raised vs deaths, tells a familiar story. The top two money getters are those with causes which are poorly understood, and they are the scariest outcomes for most women and men respectively. Meanwhile the top two death dealers are diseases whose primary causes (diet, exercise and smoking) are well understood. No need for more research, just change your lifestyle.

    The last chart, money spent for healthcare services vs deaths, illustrates a different aspect of deaths due to medical conditions, viz. lifetime care for diabetes patients is very expensive, while COPD patients headed for the grave are relatively cheap to sustain. Heart patients are somewhere in the middle. – Chas

    • Thanks Charles. Regarding the last chart, that’s actually not healthcare spending, but research money spent by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). So things like cost of lifetime care, etc, wouldn’t factor in. I suspect the costs are orders of magnitude higher for actual healthcare expenditures.

      • Hi Mohammed, this is a very interesting chart. I was indeed surprised to see Diabetes receiving so little funding at first. However this does not take into account the research budgets at all the major pharmaceutical companies for example, does it?

  2. I think aging is the most common cause for death. But because we are so used to it, almost nobody considers it a desease…

  3. Is that correct, Mohammed? Are you saying that cancers of all kind kill more people each year than heart ailments of all kind in the US and UK? The first chart seems to imply that heart disease is number one by a mile. – Chas

  4. Pingback: Donations vs. Disease - HelpMeViz

  5. Alzheimer’s disease isn’t listed on this at all, and it is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. It is also poorly funded in relation to the amount of people it kills every year.

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