Aussies Unclear About Importance of Philanthropy in Medical Research
21 August 2014 at 12:00 pm
A new opinion poll has found 4 in 10 people who donate regularly to health and medical research are less likely to continue donating if the GP co-payment to fund the Medical Research Future Fund becomes a reality.
Research Australia says the poll results reveal Australians are clearly underestimating the impact of their generosity on innovative health and medical research.
The same poll found that 73 per cent of Australians support more Federal funding being directed to health and medical research (from savings in the health portfolio, other non-health areas or from tax increases).
The results of the poll of 1000 Australians were released to coincide with Research Australia’s annual Philanthropy for Health & Medical Research Conference in Melbourne.
“While the Medical Research Future Fund is a must, regardless of the funding model implemented, Australians need to be aware that it will take almost a decade before the fund injects approximately $1 billion each year into local health and medical research,” Elizabeth Foley, CEO of Research Australia said.
“And even then, the fund will only provide enough funding for 40 per cent of quality research projects currently put forward each year to the National Medical Health and Research Council.
“That being the case, philanthropic funds will continue to play a key role in supplementing current government and commercial investment in health and medical research,” Foley said.
“Importantly, philanthropic investment helps to ‘de-risk’ projects by allowing researchers involved at early stages of the process to test hypotheses and new ideas. Then, once concepts are proven, researchers are able to apply for government and possibly commercial funding for the next stage of the process.
“Understandably, without philanthropy, innovation will be at risk and research that could better the health of our nation – for this generation and the next – would not be possible,” she said.
“For example, Australian researchers would not have developed the Cochlear Implant if it weren’t for research undertaken in the late 1960s that was made possible by philanthropic funds.
“Clearly, Australia is coming to terms with the Medical Research Future Fund announced as part of the 2014-15 Federal Budget, and some are clearly hesitant when it comes to donating to health and medical research as the funding model for the Future Fund is yet to be agreed.
“However, Australia needs to look internationally to see that philanthropy still thrives when there is substantial government investment.
“For instance in the UK where there is the government funded Medical Research Council as well as the Wellcome Foundation, over £766 million (A$1,385 million) and £463 million (A$837 million) respectively was injected into health and medical research in 2012/13.
“In 2009, the UK ratio of government funding of health research to GDP is 0.11%, compared to Australia’s 0.09%, yet donated dollars raised for health and medical research continues to grow in the UK. In fact, Cancer Research UK, one of the world’s largest independent cancer research charities raised $887.4 million for cancer research In 2013/14, up 6 per cent on the previous year.
“We are confident that once the Medical Research Future Fund is in place and grows to its full potential, Australians will begin to see the inroads made in health and medical research, and trust that their health and prosperity will be better for it,” Foley said.
“Regardless of the establishment of the Medical Research Future Fund – as fund or no fund – philanthropy is, and will remain, a vital source of research funding alongside private sector and government investment.”