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Health System Review Pays Lip Service To Health Research

“The Health and Disability System Review has missed a golden opportunity to make real differences to kiwis’ health outcomes” say New Zealanders for Health Research (NZHR) Chief Executive Chris Higgins.

“The Review’s earlier interim report completely failed to recognise the role of health research in improving the effectiveness of New Zealand’s health system” said Mr Higgins. “However, following vigorous NZHR lobbying, it is pleasing to see the role of health research at least acknowledged in the final report”.

“The problem now is that although the report suggests that health research should be actively facilitated and engage all parts of the workforce; that collecting evidence and making improvements should be core activities throughout the system; and that concerted leadership and culture change would be required to achieve a really effective ecosystem for research and development, not one of these sentiments is directly reflected in any of the Report’s recommendations.”

“It feels like health research, which should be seen as a fundamental enabler of improved health outcomes, is instead being thought of as an afterthought worthy only of lip service”.

“The Government’s 2020 budget has allocated just 0.78% of health care costs to health research, a figure which is forecast to decline over the next few years” said Mr Higgins. “To pull our weight internationally and to serve New Zealanders well we should be investing at least 2.4%”

“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.”

“The Review report doesn’t provide any compelling evidence that its recommendations will address these most fundamental measures of outcomes, and in any case NZHR wouldn’t expect it to be able to do so given the absence of recommendations for both increasing government investment in health research and embedding health research as a key component of the health and disability system. ” Mr Higgins said.

“We saw the astounding health results of adopting an overt health research led response to the threat presented by the Covid 19 pandemic” said Mr Higgins. “Imagine how much more effective the New Zealand health and disability system could be if it were to be similarly led.”

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