An Update: National Institutes of Health Research Funding for Palliative Medicine 2016-2020

Nicholas J. Buehler, Julia L. Frydman, R. Sean Morrison, Laura P. Gelfman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: The evidence base to support palliative care clinical practice is inadequate and opportunities to improve the evidence base remain despite the field's rapid growth. Objective: The aim of this study was to examine current National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding of palliative medicine research and trends over time. Design: We sought to identify NIH funding of palliative medicine (2016-2020) in two stages: (1) we searched the NIH grant database, RePORTER, for grants with the keywords, "palliative care,""end-of-life care,""hospice,"and "end of life,"and (2) identified palliative care researchers likely to have secured NIH funding using three strategies. Methods: We abstracted (1) the first and last authors' names from original investigations published in major palliative medicine journals from 2016 to 2018; (2) names from a PubMed-generated list of original articles published in major medicine, nursing, and subspecialty journals using the above keywords; and (3) palliative medicine journal editorial board members and members of key palliative medicine initiatives. We cross-matched the pooled names against NIH grants funded from 2016 to 2021. Results: A crosswalk analysis of the author search and NIH RePORTER search identified 1658 grants. Of those, 541 were categorized as relevant to palliative medicine, which represented 419 unique principal investigators (mean of 1.34 grants per investigator). Compared with 2011-2015, the number of NIH-funded grants increased by 25%, NIH dollars increased by 35%, and the distribution of grant types remained stable. Conclusions: Despite the challenging NIH funding climate, the number of NIH grants and funding to palliative care have increased. Given the increased funding allocation toward Alzheimer's dementia and related dementia research at the congressional level, this increase in funding reflects this funding allocation and does not represent overall growth. Dedicated federal funding for palliative care research remains critical to grow the evidence base for persons living with serious illnesses and their families.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)509-516
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Palliative Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2023


  • NIH
  • palliative medicine
  • research funding


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