Health research and consumers: good thinking

One of Australia’s top medical researchers, Professor Ian Frazer AC, has called on Australians to consider what they want of health care in the future given the rapid development of ever more powerful and expensive treatments.

The “quiet revolution” in health care is making optimal health care for chronic diseases more expensive, raising questions of how we control health costs in the future, Professor Frazer says.

His comments come in the latest edition of the Consumers Health Forum journal, Health Voices which is focusing on the consumer role in health and medical research and comes as last week’s Federal Budget includes welcome pledges to support consumers to have a role in helping to identify priorities for translation into research financed by the Medical Research Future Fund.

Professor Frazer, chair of the Translational Research Institute of Australia,  says: “All Australians can, and should, get involved in the discussion and debate around what we want the healthcare revolution to deliver.”

Developments ranging from genomics to wearable devices which enable physiological measurements, and telemedicine assisted by artificial intelligence, mean “your loungeroom will be your personal doctor’s waiting room”.

Individuals will be able to contribute to scientific advance by such means as the transmission of their de-identified personal health information to a secure data pool.  “Planning for future physical health will be equivalent to staying socially-connected and should have a potentially huge pay-off --- a longer and healthier life, not just for you but also for your children…” Professor Frazer says.

This Health Voices edition, titled Health research and consumers: good thinking, includes articles by 15 consumers and researchers who describe a variety of projects and approaches involving consumers in design and involvement in research.

The CEO of the National Health and Medical Research Council, Professor Anne Kelso AO, says health research is most effective when it involves a partnership between researchers and the community.

Perth health consumer leader, Anne McKenzie AM, who leads the WA Consumer and Community Health Research Network, says that while there remains a lack of comprehensive requirement for consumer and community involvement in research, there had been “massive changes” in attitudes with consumer involvement now in areas such as cancer, kidney health, HIV/AIDS, cystic fibrosis, diabetes and dementia.

As Professor Jeffrey Braithwaite, Director of the Australian Institute of Health Innovation, Macquarie University, states, in health care “the patient is the only stakeholder who experiences the whole journey.”

“Research has traditionally been solely investigator-driven yet there are clear benefits to be gained when health system research agendas are co-designed by clinicians, consumers and researchers,” the CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, Leanne Wells, said.  

“The commentary by the range of lead authors in our latest edition of Health Voices and the measures in the Federal Budget carrying the commitment to explore consumer-driven research signal a change for the better. 

“Australia faces a promising future and global leadership in health and medical research accelerated by major initiatives such as the Medical Research Future Fund.  This includes an emerging paradigm shift whereby consumer and community involvement in shaping research priorities, in research conduct and in assuring the translation of research findings into relevant new treatments and service improvements will be increasingly commonplace,” Ms Wells said.

See:  Health research and consumers: good thinking 

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Mark Metherell

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