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Imagine a Healthier Future Campaign Encourages Public Investment in Research

In a bid to encourage public investment in health and medical research, the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) Action Group has launched its Imagine a Healthier Future Campaign.

The Imagine a Healthier Future campaign urges the public to consider the importance of maintaining Australia as a global centre of excellence in medical research and the translation of that research into better and more efficient healthcare delivery.

Alastair Lucas AM, Founding Chairman of the MRFF Action Group, noted that: “Medical research is an integral part of a high quality healthcare system. They are inseparable. It is no coincidence that Australia has one of the best healthcare systems in the world, because it has been underpinned by excellent research. The potential to do much more for the health and economic wellbeing of Australians is truly exciting.”

“This country is already home to some amazing advances,” said MRFF Action Group Chairman Peter Scott.

“Think about breakthroughs such as spray-on skin, the cochlear ear implant, the peptic ulcer cure and the vaccine against cervical cancer,” said Mr Scott, who is also a Vice Chairman of UBS Australia.

“These and many other home-grown discoveries and developments have greatly improved longevity and quality of life for many Australians and others around the world. They were made possible by the commitment and vision of previous governments to funding medical research, thereby establishing many of Australia’s medical research institutes, universities, clinics and companies as significant contributors to our economic wellbeing as well as to our quality of life.”

The MRFF Action Group welcomes the current proposal to increase the government’s commitment through a publicly owned, perpetual endowment fund that will, over the next decade, reach $20 billion and provide an additional $1 billion of annual disbursements for health and medical research.

“The time is right for this investment to be made at the size and pace proposed for the MRFF,” said Professor Bruce Robinson AM, Chair of the Group of Eight Universities Deans of Medicine Committee.

“If we want more major medical advances to be made in this country, we need this big, bold step in research funding. Importantly, we need it in view of the growing healthcare need that arises from an ageing population and the increasing prevalence of age- and lifestyle-related diseases and disabilities.

“Presently the Australian Government invests 0.075 per cent of our GDP on health and medical research, just 64 per cent of the OECD average. While our scientists are dedicated and talented, Australia has fallen behind the pace when it comes to research funding. We are behind countries such as the UK, Canada and Korea, who have recognised the potential for both health and wealth from medical research. It is vital that we bring Australia back to an internationally comparable level of government support,” Professor Robinson said.

“A perpetual fund endures,” said Professor Doug Hilton, Director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute.

“We have seen how funds like this have become defining bodies for health and medical research in the UK with the Wellcome Trust, and in the US with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Bill and Melinda Gates “The MRFF is Australia’s chance to have the same secure and sustainable investment in health and medical research. This would put medical research funding on a secure footing in a decadal – 10, 20, 30-year way. It says to kids who are going through primary school that if they’re good at science, there will be an opportunity to have a career in medical research here in Australia,” Professor Hilton said.

The MRFF Action Group says increased research will also help us tame spiralling costs in our healthcare system.

“Medical research is key to health system efficiency,” said Simon McKeon AO, Chairman of the Federal Government Strategic Review of Health & Medical Research, which last year finalised its 300 page report.

“In fact, decades of sustained investment will create an exceptional – and sustainable – health system, given that the investment in the past decade is projected to save more than $960 million in costs to the health system and deliver a further $6 billion in gains linked to increased wellbeing,” said Mr McKeon, who is Chairman of CSIRO.

“The MRFF will be nation defining, with ramifications extending far beyond the nation’s health. Indeed, it will support a growing health industry with continuing strong export performance and associated skilled employment opportunities.”

“The MRFF is in line with the Australian community’s strong support for more research funding,” said Professor Christine Bennett AO, Chair of Research Australia.

“Health and medical research is a cause for national pride and has been supported across the political spectrum. “It is about the health, hopes and prosperity of Australians.

“Making the MRFF a reality at the scope and pace proposed will guarantee that we can build on our strong track record in discovery and invention and secure Australia’s position as a leading research nation into the future.”

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Alana Lowes

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