Questions you may be asked by federal candidates when you raise the importance of health research and health innovation as key policy issues for this election

 

1.    Why should I be concerned about health research when my constituents are more worried about the economy and health care especially waiting times and access to diagnostic services and treatments?

A.    Health research is already tackling some of this country’s greatest health and health system challenges. Health research provides us with the evidence we require to decrease waiting times and provide better access to diagnostic services and treatment. We cannot improve our health system without the knowledge we acquire from research that allows us to make informed decisions about procedures and innovative system strategies. This evidence can only come from research that is rigorous, integrated and based on fact. Research helps to ensure a health system that is adaptable, responsive, innovative, cost-effective and accountable.

Secondly, health research provides the means to test the effectiveness of new treatments, first in controlled environments, through clinical trials, then in actual use, through ongoing surveillance. It also helps to prevent disease by teaching us more about the factors that increase the probability of illness and our susceptibility to disease.

2.    How can your organization ask for an increase in public investment in health research especially in these challenging economic times and when there has been a substantive increase in your sector over the past several years? What about other priorities for government?

A.  Canada has made a significant commitment to health research over a decade and a half. While Canada is competitive with a number of other countries with developed economies, it would be a grave error to become complacent and conclude that our current investment is sufficient in equipping us to compete in the new global economy.

Canada has tumbled out of the top 10 research and development (R&D) spenders since the Great Recession, steadily ceding ground to more aggressive nations on a host of innovation measures. A recent OECD report revealed that Canada now ranks 12th in overall spending. It invested less in R&D in 2012 ($21.8-billion U.S.) than it did in 2004 ($22.7-billion).

With its current base budget, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research cannot keep pace with the demand to fund critical, foundational research that improves health, alleviates the human and financial burden of disease, builds an efficacious and cost-effective health system and develops innovative products and services within an increasingly competitive global economy. Research Canada firmly believes that Canada could lose ground and jeopardize the return on its investments in health research without significant, sustained, multi-year growth in CIHR’s base budget. The very nature of research requires investment over time if we are to reap the full health and economic benefits in the future.

3.    Where do Canadians stand on the money being spent on health research?

A.     Canadians have not wavered in their commitment to the importance of supporting health and medical research because they recognize the benefits it can bring to our health and to our economy. Canadians told us that research has a profound – and personal – impact on Canadians.

Leadership and Priorities

  • Canadians are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports increased funding for health care and health and medical research
  • A very strong majority (90%) of Canadians say health research makes an important contribution to health care while a strong majority (77%) say it makes an important contribution to the economy. Ninety-two per cent of Canadians say basic research should be supported by the federal government — an increase from results in 2006 and 2009
  • A very strong majority of Canadians think it is important for both federal and provincial governments to invest in the education and training of health and medical researchers

Investment

  • Four out of five Canadians agree that the federal government should support tax and regulatory policies that encourage private industries to conduct more medical research. Agreement is on par with results from 2009
  • A majority of Canadians (68%) are willing to pay $1/week more in taxes if they know the revenue supports government investment in Canadian health innovation, on par with results in 2009
  • A majority of Canadians (63%) say the government should allocate between 1-24 cents on the healthcare dollar towards health and medical research, slightly down from 2009 and 2006

4.    If the Government of Canada does increase its investments in health research, what kind of guarantee can you provide that we will have a return on our investment?

A.    Unfortunately, return on investment in research is measured in decades, not months. The recent Ebola outbreak taught us that when the pump is primed — in other words when we have funded the basic research over the years, that puts us in a position to offer a life-saving vaccine—then we are on the right path.

The current federal government has focused Canada’s research priorities in the direction of applied research with short-term commercial goals. The result is that basic (discovery) research has been put on a diet in this country. It is imperative that federal funding agencies work with the health research community to ensure that new approaches to funding health research do not stymie the progress of science in Canada, but instead continue to fund the most deserving research, keep a broad portfolio of investigators active in order to hedge Canada’s R&D bet (it is not always easy to recognize the research programs that will bear the most fruit) and make certain that our best and brightest students can be trained by research-active scientists.

5.    Why should I make health research and health innovation my priorities?

A.    The benefits of health research are the priorities of Canadians: improved health, an efficient and sustainable health system and a prosperous economy that creates jobs.

Canadians hold their healthcare system near and dear to their hearts. Health research will be critical to facing the most pressing challenges we are currently facing in our health care system.

Health research:

  • Provides the evidence that facilitates sound decision-making and provides governments with the information required to develop sound public policy
  • Provides the healthcare system with the tools it needs to effectively diagnose and treat Canadians when they become ill
  • Provides the means to test the effectiveness of new treatments, first in controlled environments, through clinical trials, then in actual use, through ongoing surveillance
  • Supports the development of the most efficacious and cost-effective means of delivering healthcare services to Canadians

The return on Canada’s investment in health research is measured not only in terms of health, but also in terms of wealth.

The Government of Canada’s investment in health research is underpinning the Innovation Agenda by:

  • Providing the foundation for spin-off companies that supply important health services and products to Canadians while generating economic growth and creating jobs
  • Fostering partnerships with the private and voluntary sectors that are leveraging the federal investment, integrating all partners into the development and implementation of strategic agendas for health research and maximizing the impact of health research dollars
  • Providing Canada with skilled graduates who are equipped with advanced levels of training, knowledge and expertise
  • Repatriating Canadian researchers from abroad and attracting distinguished foreign researchers to Canada, where their discoveries will benefit Canadians
  • Creating a brighter future for Canada’s youth by providing opportunities to harness their energy and creativity in becoming the next generation of health researchers