Posts Tagged ‘Health research funding’

Levels of health research funding a sick joke

August 8, 2008

Well, it wouldn’t have taken much sleuthing to find out that NZ’s medical reasearch funding is pathetic compared to other developed countries’. But good on the media for running with this story. (The report doesn’t appear on the UA website at the time of typing.)

“New Zealand will have fewer, and lower quality, medical students within a few years if research funding doesn’t increase, the country’s two medical schools believe.

“The country is haemmorhaging health staff, facilities and research, because its health research funding is up to 12 times lower than other countries, they say.”

Yep, that’s a factor of twelve. The report shows NZ’s government funding for health research is equivalent to $10.2 per capita. This compares to around $34.6 per capita in Australia, $54.3 per capita in the UK and $126 per capita in the USA.

I’ve discussed the dire state of university funding in an earlier post. So the problem to which the deputy deans have drawn attention is not unique to one part of the university system. But it illustrates the point well:

“[The primary health research funder] the Health Research Council, … invested $63 million in this year’s recent funding round. This funding has remained at a static level for the past four years despite research costs rising by almost 9% per year. Around 85% of submitted projects do not receive funding.”

It is a tribute to the dedication and ingenuity of NZ’s health researchers that we do as well as we do in this area. But we can’t keep exploiting health and other academics endlessly…

One way that academics compensate for the crappy salaries that they get compared to their private sector counterparts is to substitute intrinsic rewards for the extrinsic shortfalls. The opportunity to research is probably the chief compensation for most academics, with teaching a good second. But we are falling down on the research side.

Where to from here? Well, the Labour-led government made some modest progress, particularly when Cullen was Minister. Frankly, Hodgson is a disappointment. But National looks worse. Traditionally anti-intellectual, the signs from Bill “Loose Lips” English are not good. I despair.

[Postscript: My friend who left last week for a job at a Melbourne uni reports vastly superior research funding in addition to the huge salary increase that he awarded himself by going there.]


The Atlas of Socioeconomic Deprivation in New Zealand

July 1, 2008

The Health Department have produced a series of maps showing the geographical distribution of lack of wealth in NZ. Or, if you’re a Tory, the distribution of envy. No real surprises.

For a quick squiz, the Herald has some of the maps online. The actual maps (1.6–2.0 Mb for NZ/NI/SI) are here.

The “Atlas” was based on Statistics New Zealand’s index of socioeconomic deprivation. According to the Department of Health, the index “was used to monitor inequalities across a range of health indicators, including hospitalisations and mortality. It was also widely used to assess DHB funding. In research, the index was a tool to determine the relationship between socioeconomic status and health outcomes.” (Presumably it still is, and the DoH simply can’t write a press release.)

I’m inclined to ask how you could use the maps for the latter purpose when many of the independent variables are linked (e.g., socio-economic status and ethnicity). Multivariate analysis is required to estimate the independent effects of these variables.

Update: MacDoc raises some important points in his comments. A podcast of a RNZ interview with Peter Crampton, Dean, University of Otago Wellington campus on the Atlas is available.

Right attack health research

May 24, 2008

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.