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NZ research funding dawdles behind rest of world

Media release
8 August 2008

New Zealand medical research funding dawdles behind rest of world

Health research funding in New Zealand is 12 times less than some OECD countries, and may soon affect the health of the population.

A report by The University of Auckland and the University of Otago shows funding provided by the New Zealand government for health research is currently equivalent to $10.2 per capita. In comparison, funding in Australia is around $34.6 per capita, with $54.3 per capita in the UK and $126 per capita in the USA.

In New Zealand, medical research is primarily funded through the Health Research Council, which invested $63 million in this year’s recent funding round. This funding has remained at a static level for the past four years despite research costs rising by almost 9% per year. Around 85% of submitted projects do not receive funding.

“The lack of health research funding in New Zealand needs to be addressed,” says Professor Peter Joyce, Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Otago. “Over the next two years, this lack will translate to more of the health workforce moving overseas, attracted by higher levels of funding and the facilities these can provide. This will not only have a huge impact on the level of care available, but will also affect the ability of the academic sector to train new doctors.”

“New Zealand has a unique position in the medical research field, with a highly trained local workforce, and a different disease profile to other OECD countries,” says Professor Ian Reid, Deputy Dean of The University of Auckland’s Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences. “To keep up this record, and retain our workforce, we need an immediate 20% increase in HRC funding, followed by consistent annual increments of 30% per annum. This will bring us closer to other countries, allowing New Zealand to train and retain the workforce and develop the biotechnology sector to meet the country’s needs.”

The report, entitled Health Research: A critical investment for New Zealand, has been presented to the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Research Science and Technology. The comparative figures are published in this week’s New Zealand Medical Journal.


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