Editorial: Focus on Health Research

When the issue of health enters public discourse, it tends to focus on the number of medical professionals serving Canadians and our doctor and nurse ‘shortage’. The related issue of wait times also plays a prominent role. The issue of health research, however, while equally important, tends not to capture the public’s imagination. Health research is one of the keys to protecting and enhancing the health of Canadians.

Developing researchers, building the infrastructure to allow them to do their research, supporting them with grants, making discoveries and moving those discoveries to the bedside and to the population at large is a laborious, costly and long-term project, but a critical one.

Canada’s track record for health research innovations has been outstanding. From the days when our researchers discovered insulin up to today, we have made huge advances. Fields such as genomics, diabetes, other chronic diseases, and the management of cancer through better techniques and advanced medications are well developed. Health services research has led to more efficient care in surgeries such as knee and hip replacements, and population-based research has led to changes in our nutrition advice and to major reductions in smoking amongst Canadians.

Canada has made significant investments to build our capacity to do world-class health research; we have recruited extremely talented scientists and we have built the necessary infrastructure. We continue to struggle, however, to provide enough funding for adequate grants to allow these researchers to do the research they are capable of.

The Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada (AFMC) has been recommending that Canada significantly increase its investments in health and biomedical research in a balanced and strategic way. In order to capitalize on our past investments and enable us to reach the objectives set out in Advantage Canada and Canada’s Science and Technology strategy, Canada needs to increase its investments and strategically allocate a generous portion of those increases to programs aimed at enabling those who conduct world class research in Canada to create and sustain productive and transformative research careers and to apply their research for the betterment of Canada.

We need a robust clinical and applied health research program that will provide competitive salaries for our most outstanding researchers. This support should be focused on highly competitive, yet targeted areas of strategic priority for Canada and be delivered through our existing research funding agencies. We need funding for the entire spectrum of health and biomedical researchers, from PhD students to senior researchers. We need salary support for medical practitioners with research activities, and doctoral students from a broad range of disciplines pursuing research in health-related areas. Unless we provide this funding, our competitive edge will certainly be lost and our existing investments will yield far less than their potential.

For more information, please contact:

Irving Gold
Vice President, Government Relations and External Affairs
The Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada (AFMC)
613 730-0687 Ext. 236