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Health Research Funding Falls: 2020 Budget

The 2020 Budget once again fails to recognise the role of health research in keeping New Zealanders healthy and out of hospital says advocacy organisation New Zealanders for Health Research (NZHR).

“Last year the government invested just 0.81% of health care costs into health research, and this has fallen to 0.71% in this year’s budget” said NZHR Chief Executive Chris Higgins. “To pull our weight internationally and to serve New Zealanders well we should be investing at least 2.4%”.

“Last year the government allocated $131.2m to health research, a figure which has fallen by $13.7m to $117.5m in the 2020 Budget” said Mr Higgins. “Although we support the Budget’s increased overall expenditure on health as a necessary response to kiwis’ need for health care, we’re extremely disappointed that health research investment continues to fall behind.”

“About 5000 New Zealanders per year are dying prematurely and unnecessarily, a figure that has been improving by a meagre 3% per year. In addition a further 7000 kiwis per year are dying prematurely because we haven’t done the research to know how to effectively treat them. Propping up the health system by spending ever increasing amounts without at the same time investing in the research that will help us to improve health outcomes is perpetuating a system which will continue to result in increased health care rationing and exacerbation of inequities” Mr Higgins said.

“New Zealand’s response to the Covid 19 pandemic has clearly demonstrated how the application of health research has saved lives – potentially tens of thousands – and prevented large numbers of people from becoming seriously ill. NZHR is therefore astounded that the government is underinvesting in health research which could save and improve the lives of many others”.

Mr Higgins said that NZHR understands that the 2020 Budget has to have a strong focus on rebuilding the economy following New Zealand’s and the global response to the Covid 19 pandemic, and that difficult choices have to be made. “However, we’re at a time in history when innovation, supported by R&D investment, including health R&D, is required more than ever”.

NZHR advocates for increased investment in health research. It is an alliance chaired by Graham Malaghan, of the Wellington-based Malaghan Institute of Medical Research and supported by universities, clinical research organisations, and organisations representing both the philanthropic and pharmaceutical industry sectors. For more information visit

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