• Scam: Study of native-health costs taxpayers $15 million

    Taxpayers spent nearly $15 million since 2003 for a Colorado researcher to study health disparities between Native Americans and Alaskan Natives, which some argue was a waste of money.

    “They could’ve provided a lot of health care for $15 million in cash to care for people and not just study it,” said Jon Caldara, president of the Independence Institute, a free-market think tank in Denver.

    Led by University of Colorado-Denver Professor Spero Martin Manson, the study apparently does offer some health care, but this year will focus on the impact of trauma on the two populations.

    The review, funded this year for $1.1 million, will also “seed money for community research conferences,” build capacity at those conferences and train community advocates in “Digital Storytelling” to energize public health efforts in the communities, the grant summary said.

    Previous studies, which often were funded at more than $1 million a year since 2003, apparently focused on different aspects of health disparities between the native peoples.

    But Caldara said this type of research is more about filling researchers’ pockets than helping indigenous populations.

    “This is a way to retire the debt for post-graduate degrees,” he quipped.

    Manson did not return a call and email seeking comment on why taxpayers should fund this type of work and at this cost.

    Caldara said there is a role for government to fund research, but he would prefer that agencies offer competitive cash prizes for the best ideas. That way, even people who don’t win a prize might provide important technological breakthroughs that can help society.

    National Institutes of Health, which has a $30 billion budget, declined to provide a representative to discuss this and other grants. The money for Manson’s study was granted from NIH subsidiary National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities.

    NIH issued a blanket statement to Watchdog.org, saying all grants go through two levels of peer review before obtaining funding.

    “NIH’s mission is to seek fundamental knowledge about the nature and behavior of living systems and apply that knowledge to enhance health, lengthen life, and reduce illness and disability,” the statement said.

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