Medical researchers are often focused on gathering data for long-term studies. Unlike in the past, these days human subject research is tightly controlled by IRBs (Institutional Review Boards).
However, many times potential patients don’t want to deal with the fine print on the documents they’re asked to sign. And, then, if a long-term study does get underway, people who are signed up to participate move to another part of the country, and researchers can’t track them down.
A deeper problem is that the agencies that fund the majority of medical research in the US (the NIH and the VA) don’t have the money to invest in long-term studies.
Even research on life-ending diseases like ALS, MS, Pick’s Disease, and others, are not funded at the levels we need them to be if researchers are ever to find a cure.
Communities that organize around diseases like AIDS and breast cancer have driven breakthroughs in these diseases that benefit everyone. Heart disease doesn’t have lobbyists in Washington, DC, though it’s a known killer, and also one of the diseases where long-term research into exercise and eating habits could make a dent.
For environmental factors like lead poisoning and exposure to radiation, long-term research is also the key. Through research we can defeat many of these debilitating, long-term diseases.