Medical research strategy recognises central role of consumers

Consumers stand to have deeper engagement in Australia’s health sciences as a result of the great step forward in the Medical Research Future Fund strategy released by the Federal Government today, the Consumers Health Forum says.

“The Consumers Health Forum welcomes the fresh and strong focus on the role consumers must play in driving the direction and application of medical research,” the CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, Leanne Wells, said . 

“Consumers are after all the ultimate funders, users and beneficiaries of medical research, as the MRFF strategy document states, but are often not engaged early on in the research process, or at application stages.

“The realities of contemporary healthcare have made it much more obvious and sensible that consumers must have a voice in research priorities, including the direction of health system, services and preventive health projects if we are to get the best out of our lives.

As the MRFF strategy document states:

In the future, consumers will drive their own healthcare in partnership with clinicians, and it is therefore important to start working together earlier in the research pipeline.

“We also heartily agree with the statement that given the social, economic and political significance of healthcare, Australia’s consumers are willing and wanting to be more engaged,” Ms Wells said.

“When we look at the research and innovation priorities set out for the MRFF including antimicrobial resistance, disruptive technologies such as wearable health devices and genomics and communicable disease control, it becomes clear consumers will have a pivotal role in shaping their success.

“We also strongly welcome the directions set out for health services and systems such as a National Institute of Research to focus on evidence-based and cost-effective health services and preventive health research; and building evidence in primary care, and development of  behavioural economics with an emphasis on early intervention in mental health, diet and physical activity.

“Involving service users as research partners is likely to be one of the major developments in research management and conduct in the 21st century and that trend is supported by international research.

“The evidence shows that public and patient involvement can have favourable impacts upon every stage of the research process by helping to ensure that research funds are appropriately prioritised, that research evidence is relevant to patients, and by improving recruitment and retention rates and supporting the uptake of research in practice.  (See this study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4459695/)

“Having service users as partners in research makes it more likely to lead to meaningful results, complies with social justice objectives and is increasingly being demanded by funding bodies. (See: http://www.thelancet.com/pdfs/journals/lanpsy/PIIS2215-0366(15)00365-X.pdf)

“We congratulate the Government and the Australian Medical Research Advisory Board and its chairman, Professor Ian Frazer, in setting out this forward-thinking direction for Australian healthcare,” Ms Wells said.

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Mark Metherell

Em.metherell@chf.org.au
T:  02 6273 5444 
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