Here’s $49,577,386 That Could Have Gone to Zika Relief

Weight-loss program for truckers, gay hook up app studies, exercise program for refugees, and more!

Vital science / All images via AP
August 8, 2016

The National Institutes of Health has spent more on exercise programs for refugees, anti-tobacco video games, weight-loss programs for truckers, and studies on gay hook up apps than it has to fight the Zika virus.

The Department of Health and Human Services is warning that its funding to fight the Zika virus in the United States will be exhausted by September, sending a letter to Congress this week saying "additional funding is needed." HHS has so far received $374 million for domestic Zika relief, including $47 million specifically for the NIH.

However, the Washington Free Beacon has uncovered $49,577,386 worth of questionable NIH studies since the Zika epidemic began in the beginning of 2015.

The projects include everything from studying how drunk men look at women to teaching 11-year-old Kenyans how to use condoms.

Many of the studies involve behavioral research into obesity, including the now $3,531,925 study into why a majority of lesbians are obese while gay men generally are not, which concluded that gay men have a "greater desire for toned muscles" than straight men. The project is slated to receive additional funding this year.

The agency spent $1,679,030 on an exercise program for refugees, which sends "community partners" into mosques to talk about physical activity.

Anti-obesity rap songs for kids were part of a joint project between the NIH and the Department of Agriculture that cost taxpayers $2,495,850.

A study of the college "freshman 15" has cost $1,143,919.

A weight-loss program for truck drivers, where researchers give them motivational phone calls while they are on the road, has cost $2,658,929.

Many projects have received additional funding since they were first revealed by the Free Beacon in 2015 and 2016.

For instance, research attempting to teach Latina women "communication competency" so they can talk about their weight with their daughters has now cost taxpayers $156,324, while a project that sends text messages to Latino men encouraging them to exercise has increased in cost to $426,250.

When a study observing the outdoors behavior of preschoolers was first reported, taxpayers had been billed $460,809. The study, which uses GPS and light sensors to track kids’ exercise levels, now totals $646,245.

Studying how babies think about food has now cost $1,859,480. Published results from the study include the findings that young children are not likely to eat foods if they are told that someone sneezed on them.

A project teaching parents how to talk to their kids about food has now cost $154,288, and a similar project for doctors on how to talk to fat kids in Minnesota has received additional funding, totaling $999,808.

Studies involving alcohol and sex have also cost taxpayers millions. A study into the "troublesome product" of malt liquor, which researchers are trying to get cities to prohibit, has cost $1,626,038.

Funding to develop a smart phone game to teach young teens in Kenya how to use condoms has doubled since the Free Beacon’s first report, totaling $459,048.

Research monitoring the eye movements of men to study how they look at women when they are drinking has also received additional funding. The project, which seeks to limit "male-initiated sexual aggression toward female acquaintances," has cost $403,093 to date.

Sending text messages to college students on their 21st birthdays advising them not to binge drink has cost $36,913.

Sext messages from college girls are also of interest to the NIH. Funding for a study to determine whether sending racy pictures makes college girl more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior has doubled to $85,796.

A study that is giving Fitbits to depressed alcoholic women has now cost taxpayers $410,814, and a soap opera series about HIV called "Love, Sex, and Choices" has cost $3,134,199. The funding also paid for instructional videos about how to put a condom on a cucumber.

Other questionable research that could have been allocated to fight disease outbreaks like Zika concerns sexual orientation.

The NIH has increased funding for a study of the satisfaction levels of young gay mens’ first time. The study, which examines the "meaning and function" of first "penetrative same-sex sexual experiences," has cost taxpayers $547,020.

A project studying gay hookup apps like Grindr has cost $432,000, while research into "gender affirmation" for incarcerated trans women in San Francisco has cost $454,295.

The CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control spent $899,364 for a study seeking to prevent sexual assault by teaching young men to resist "rigid masculinity."

Several projects involving animals have also been cited as wasteful. The NIH spent $10,100,000 to address gender disparities in research with mice and another $82,822 for a project attempting to create stuttering mice. Testing obese pigs for sleep apnea has cost $231,750.

Other miscellaneous projects include a social media campaign to persuade mothers to tell their daughters not to go to the tanning salon, which has cost $1,347,939, and a study observing pregnant women as they walk, which has cost $906,181.

An anti-tobacco video game for fifth graders, where they navigate "cancer rooms" to find hidden objects that will help them avoid smoking, has cost $224,767, and a website to teach kids about dog safety has cost $390,798. Motivational text messages trying to get rural Americans to stop dipping has cost $477,000.

The tab for an NIH-funded conference on balding ran $22,500, and "unconscious bias" training for college professors cost $723,637.

The development of an app that can predict the "psychological status" of Americans has now cost $10,721,985. The smartphone app asks people how they are doing mentally during the day and will "deliver an automated intervention" if necessary.

Finally, the NIH has spent $107,379 studying disgust.

Published under: Government Waste