The IRU has responded to the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) Priorities discussion paper highlighting three areas for further focus:
- Communicable disease control
- Building evidence in primary care
- Clinical researcher fellowships
Communicable disease control
The communicable disease control priority is extremely important but does not give adequate emphasis to Australia’s geographical position as surrounded by countries with health security risks (e.g. Papua New Guinea, South East Asia and Pacific Island countries).
Many of the biomedical risks and challenges faced within these neighbouring countries are also applicable to remote communities within Australia, such as how to deliver primary health services in areas where specialist care is not available in close geographical proximity.
Building evidence in primary care
Australia produces world-class medical research, but the translation of research into clinical practice deserves greater emphasis. Research translation must focus on applying knowledge at a national level into rural and remote areas, avoiding patchy implementation.
This includes a greater focus on strengthening the health systems and health outcomes for regional and remote areas, transforming the take up research into practice.
This needs to cover the full translation journey, extending the focus that now covers bench to bedside to clinical implementation and implementation in the public health sphere.
The primary care system is the first point of engagement for medical issues in most cases. On a cost-benefit basis, investing in a robust system of primary care based on research translation minimises the long term economic burden of the health system.
Clinical researcher fellowships
The Translating Research into Practice (TRIP) Fellowships and Practitioner Fellowships are important schemes. The Industry Exchange Fellowships are also important. These schemes should continue, but with a greater emphasis on social translation of research through researcher grants supporting collaboration with community organisations.
Engagement with health professionals must be broadly defined (including public health, health service professionals and others who are not traditional MBBS practitioner-based researchers) and target underserved populations and professionals working closely with community organisations.
A particular focus should be on regions with high levels of health challenges, including regional Australia.
More also needs to be done supporting clinical growth in universities. A lot of MRFF translational units emphasise improving capacity of health workforce in clinics, less attention is given to research institutes and university partners for training the next generation of research workforce.