New Zealand Government announces $97m boost to health research funding

The New Zealand government has announced that the Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC) will receive a significant new investment of $97 million over the next four years to help fund research that will improve the health and quality of life of all New Zealanders. The annual amount available for health research through the HRC will increase by 56 per cent from $77 million in 2015/16 to $120 million in 2019/20.

“I am delighted at the government’s increased commitment to the work of the HRC in making a meaningful difference to the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders, and to our healthcare system and economy, through this new funding,” says HRC Chief Executive Professor Kath McPherson. “The research we have invested in over the past 10 years has had a significant impact on people’s health both here and around the world. This new investment is a huge opportunity for us to build on this great work and do even better.” Professor McPherson says the HRC will now be able to increase funding opportunities for innovative and novel research to create a ‘launching pad’ for promising health-delivery research and the ground-breaking biomedical research that underpins future treatments that we can only dream of currently. The HRC will also be able to create more opportunities to partner with other health-related agencies and take advantage of new technologies and social media to bring key health research messages into people’s homes and workplaces.

Last year a survey of all the health-related research published by New Zealand researchers showed that HRC-funded research achieved double the world average for scientific influence in a number of fields, including paediatrics and reproductive medicine, immunology, genetics, and clinical sciences. Professor McPherson says this shows that the research the HRC invests in is recognised to be of the “very highest quality in the world.” “Since the HRC was established in 1990 the quality of life for all New Zealanders, and the number of years we can expect to live free from disease and disability, has improved significantly. Our infant mortality rate has declined by 30 per cent, the number of over 65s with disabilities has decreased by 13 per cent, life expectancy has increased by six years for males and three years for females, and survival rates from cancer have doubled since the 1970s,” says Professor McPherson. “HRC-funded research and research teams have made many of these health gains possible.”

The HRC’s research investment also generates direct economic returns through the development of innovative commercial products, where early discoveries have been taken all the way from patent to patient. These innovative products and treatments include a wireless heart-pump; a cooling cap to prevent brain damage in pre-term babies; a world-first vaccine for rotavirus; a diagnostic tool for bladder cancer; a new treatment for osteoporosis that is 10,000 times stronger than previously available drugs, and more. Professor McPherson says the timing of this new investment could not be better as it coincides with the government’s announcement today that it is seeking public input on the development of what will be New Zealand’s first health research strategy. “Everyone has a stake in what New Zealand’s health research priorities will be. I strongly encourage as many New Zealanders as possible to read the public discussion document on the New Zealand Health Research Strategy and have their say about the future of health research in this country.”

Some of the media coverage on the announcement: Budget 2016: Government announces $97m boost for health research - 'biggest in history' - The Dominion Post Health R&D to get $97m boost - New Zealand Herald Tackling health priorities for New Zealanders - Radio New Zealand