Right attack health research

Political blogger David Farrar posts on Murray McCully’s attack on health research and the increased funding for health research in this week’s Budget.

McCully writes that:

Last year the Health Research Council (HRC) decided to approve a grant of $701,000 to a group of researchers from the Wellington School of Medicine, a branch of Otago University, to study policymaking to reduce smoking around children. The fact that said group of researchers might accurately be described as anti-tobacco activists is underlined by the fact that the application discloses over $1.8 million in grants to members of the group for tobacco-related research over the previous three years.”

Much is made of the research into obstacles in the political process that forms part of this research. Farrar sums up, “this was a $700,000 grant paid to anti-smoking activists for them to research on how they can be more successful activists!!”

McCully’s attempt to cast a shadow over health research funding on the basis of this one grant — and to call this attack “constructive” — is disingenuous and misleading.

First, let’s put this in perspective. This grant is not representative of Health Research Council funding. Otago University, which usually gets most of the funding that Auckland University doesn’t win, got $26.8m from the HRC last year (see here). This grant was the fourth smallest of the 20 for which the University received funding, and one of the few that would not be accepted straight off as purely “medical”.

Second, McCully writes that the researchers in question, “might accurately be described as anti-tobacco activists is underlined by the fact that the application discloses over $1.8 million in grants to members of the group for tobacco-related research over the previous three years.”

Imagine that! Public health researchers have an interest in smoking, its health effects, and smoking prevention. Perhaps it has escaped McCully and Farrar that smoking is a leading cause of death and serious illness in New Zealand. Researching this does not make them “anti-tobacco activists.”

I disagree with McCully and Farrar. Anything that reduces the level of smoking in NZ is a very good thing. We should be asking these researchers whether they need more funding, not trying to use their efforts to score cheap political points.

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2 Responses to “Right attack health research”

  1. Sconehead Says:

    Mr McCully’s lobotomy is long overdue, as is Mr Farrar’s personality transplant. Both are real evidence of Labour’s failure to deal adequately with the waiting lists.

  2. A breath of fresh air « Jafapete’s Weblog Says:

    […] only a few days since I blogged about Murray McCully’s outburst about research funding for Wellington School of Medicine […]

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