“When it comes to health research policies Labour, National, Greens and New Zealand First scrape in with pass marks, while ACT is given D minus” says New Zealanders for Health Research (NZHR) Chief Executive Chris Higgins.

“NZHR has written to all current parliamentary parties seeking their health research policies in the run up to the October general election, highlighting both the current level of government underinvestment in health research and the absence of any recommendations in the Health and Disability System Review report for embedding health research as an essential component of the health system” said Mr Higgins

“We’ve looked at each party’s responses, their current policies and track record to come up with a report card, and frankly we’re disappointed with the results. Labour, National, the Greens and New Zealand First are putting in a little bit of effort but could do a lot better, while ACT is not even bothering to try.”

“We’ll be letting voters know the results of our analysis. Given that according to NZHR polling 35% said that they would be more likely to vote for a party which promised to increase the government’s health research budget, we think that they’ll be similarly unimpressed” said Mr Higgins

NZHR’s report card is as follows:

PartyGradeCommentResponse to NZHR questions
    
LabourC+Positives:
• adopted as policy the previous government’s Health Research Strategy
• adopted a generic aspirational target for R&D to increase from 1.3% to 2.00% of GDP
• “ensuring that groups who have not been as well-served by our health system in the past are prioritised in health research”
• “recognises the importance of research and innovation in keeping New Zealanders healthy and preventing premature deaths”
• focus on “sustainably increasing Research, Science and innovation funds, including the Endeavour Fund, the Marsden Fund and the Health Research Council”
• “committed to achieving equitable health outcomes informed by high quality research”  

Negatives:
• Have allowed government health research funding as a proportion of health care costs to fall from 0.82% to 0.76%
• Not committed to establishing a health research investment target
• Failure to undertake the legally required triennial review of Health Research Council funding
• Failure of commissioning arrangements to require publicly funded health services to be accountable for commitment to health research
• Tacit acceptance of the Health and Disability System Review report’s lack of recommendations for health research to be embedded as a core component of the health system  
Labours-health-research-policies
NationalC-Positives:
• Produced the government’s Health Research Strategy
• Increased health research funding from 0.68% of health care costs 0.82%
• “committed to ensuring our health researchers have adequate access to funding to support our health sector with the latest research and innovations”
• “will not reduce government funding in health research if we form the next government, and will consider increased funding in the future as the economy begins to stabilise”
• “wholeheartedly supports the inclusion of health research within our health system”
• ICT R&D grants to employ 330 new students in some of New Zealand’s top research facilities

Negatives:
• Declined to include a health research investment target in the Health Research Strategy
• Failure to implement the recommendations of the 2011 Health Committee clinical trials enquiry, specifically rejecting the recommendation that health research should be a core component of health service delivery
• Dismissing as simplistic increased investment in R&D, and the establishment of R&D targets, as an important component of post-Covid 19 economic recovery
• A belief expressed by one junior MP that increased investment in health research is akin to “pouring money into a black hole”  
Nationals-health-research-policies
GreensCPositives:
• “…supports increased investment in health research…would like to see research investment directed toward Māori and Pacifika health issues to address the continuing disparities in the standards of health between different ethnic groups in Aotearoa.
• Additional funding for research into the changed pattern of health and disease associated with climate change will also be important”
• “Decisions about health services should be based on the strongest possible evidence…supports quality health research being included in the health system to optimise and improve health outcomes”.  

Negatives:
• Health policies which seek to review and therefore cast doubt on the safety and effectiveness of scientifically verified interventions including adding fluoride to public drinking water supplies to reduce the prevalence of dental decay, and fortification of flour with folic acid to reduce the incidence of neural tube defects
• Not committed to establishing a health research investment target  
Greens-health-research-policies
New Zealand FirstC-Positives:
• tax incentives for increased research and development and export growth.
• Major clinical conditions to be funded for further research and investment to ensure they are managed effectively include Arthritis, Crohn’s, Colitis, Diabetes, Dementia and Depression.
• Establish a $50 million new medicines industry development partnership programme to match industry investment in local R&D, data analytics, manufacturing.

Negatives:
• No commitment to increasing government investment in health research
• No commitment to embedding health research as a core component of the health system
Not supplied.
See NZF’s health policies
ACTD-Positives:
• repeal New Zealand’s unscientific prohibition on the use of proven genetic engineering technologies  

Negatives:
• Abolish Callaghan Innovation, R&D tax credits and R&D Growth Grants. “Businesses will do research if it makes business sense to do so: we should not use taxpayers’ money on punts and pipe dreams”
• No commitment to increasing government investment in health research
• No commitment to embedding health research as a core component of the health system (in fact, apart from revamping public health agencies in response to Covid 19, there is no discernible health policy)  
Not supplied. See ACT budget statement

For further information and requests for interviews contact NZHR chief executive Chris Higgins on 027 292 8433 or [email protected] .

NZHR advocates for increased investment in health research. It is an alliance chaired by Graham Malaghan, of the Wellington-based Malaghan Institute of Medical Research and supported by universities, clinical research organisations, and organisations representing both the philanthropic and pharmaceutical industry sectors. For more information visit https://www.nz4healthresearch.org.nz/

END

Note:

On 10th September, following the postponement of the 2020 General Election until October 17th, NZHR re-wrote to all current parliamentary parties stating that we believe that it’s time for health research to be an election issue, and seeking to ascertain each party’s health research policies on:

  1. Increasing government investment in health research
  2. Including health research within the health system as a key enabler of improved health outcomes

The text of the remainder of our email was as follows:

“In late May of this year we carried out the fifth in our series of annual public opinion polls, ascertaining the importance that the voting public places on health research. This year’s poll was undertaken by Kantar, was based on a representative sample of 1000 respondents, and has a margin of error of +/- 3.1%.

Three quarters said that the government should invest more funding in health research, 79% said that health research investment should be a government priority and 35% said that they would be more likely to vote for a party which promised to increase the government’s health research budget.

The government’s 2020 health research allocation is a meagre 0.76% of health care costs – less in percentage terms than the 2019 allocation – and falling. Furthermore, the Health and Disability System Review report makes no recommendations that would embed health research as an essential component of health service delivery, despite the fact that 12,000 New Zealanders per year are dying prematurely.

NZHR maintains that to serve kiwis well, and for New Zealand to be pulling its weight internationally, government investment in health research should as a minimum stand at 2.4% of government health care costs, and that this should be achieved by 2027 which is the time frame for implementation of the government’s Health Research Strategy.

In the lead up to the 2020 election NZHR is letting voters know why we think that New Zealand’s “health research system fails the team of 5 million”, together with political parties’ policy positions so that they can make informed voting decisions. A copy of our recent media release is attached (here) for your information and the link to the headline version of the 2020 poll results is here , noting that we’ve already provided you with a hard copy of the full poll report.

We’re intending that our campaigning to the voting public will commence in the week commencing 21st September, so would be grateful if your reply could be sent to us by close of business Friday 18th September.”

NZHR advocates for increased investment in health research. It is an alliance chaired by Graham Malaghan, of the Wellington-based Malaghan Institute of Medical Research and supported by universities, clinical research organisations, and organisations representing both the philanthropic and pharmaceutical industry sectors. For more information visit https://www.nz4healthresearch.org.nz/