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Health research should be a government priority

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Auckland – Three quarters of New Zealanders believe more funding for health and medical research should be a government priority and that the government should invest more funding in health research, according to a survey just released.

The poll of more than 500 Kiwis was conducted by Roy Morgan Research for a national health umbrella organisation, New Zealanders for Health Research (NZHR).

Improving hospitals and the healthcare system was the most important issue for the government to focus on, the survey found.

NZHR chief executive Chris Higgins says Kiwis surveyed placed the highest priority on research to find ways to prevent illness and promote good health, and to improve the health system.

“We found 44 percent of Kiwis donate to health research; the main reason for not donating is because health research is considered to be the government’s responsibility.

“A total of 84 percent said that pharmaceutical companies should invest more in health research, and 78 percent expressed willingness to participate in any clinical trial of a new medicine if they had a condition it might be able to treat.

“Nobody knows exactly how much the government spent on health research in the last year because government research funding in channelled through a number of agencies, who then use their discretion as to whether it gets spent on health research or some other research. The best estimate is that about $300 million worth of government spending would have found its way to health research.

“NZHR has decided to focus on allocations which have to be spent exclusively on health research. In the last year this figure was $90.4 million. We believe this figure should increase to $108 million next year. The government has budgeted $98 million. We estimate the annual philanthropic support for health research is about $17 million.

“New Zealand’s ringfenced government investment in health research stands at just 0.6 percent of health care costs. New Zealanders for Health Research believes that the government should be adopting a 10-year investment target of 2.4 percent.

“Three quarters of New Zealanders said in the survey that the government should invest more funding in health research and such a target therefore is likely to have wide electoral support,” Higgins says.

NZHR is chaired by Graham Malaghan, of the Wellington-based Malaghan Institute of Medical Research.

For further information contact Make Lemonade NZ editor-in-chief Kip Brook on 0275 030188.

Photo: Chris Higgins