April 22, 2011

National Health Research Policy finalised

To overcome the weaknesses of the publicly funded health structures that restricted research in priority health areas, the Union Health and Family Planning Ministry has finalised the National Health Research Policy. It would maximise the returns on investments in health research through creation of a health research system to prioritise, coordinate and facilitate conduct of effective and ethical research and its translation into products, policies and programmes aimed at improving health especially of the vulnerable population. It proposes to ensure at least two per cent of the national health funding is utilised for research.

Representation

The Policy envisages creation of an overarching National Health Research Management Forum having representation from all stakeholders and will function from the Department of Health Research that has drafted the new proposed policy.

The Forum will advise on and evolve national health research policies and priorities and evolve mechanism and action plans for their implementation. It will develop a five-year projection of the plans for health research and prepare an annual National Health Research Plan, do a mid-Plan appraisal for course correction, if needed.

In addition to suggesting mechanisms to nurture a scientific environment to attract talent and to develop human resource for biomedical and health research, the Forum will facilitate utilisation and dissemination of results of health research. To be chaired by the Minister of Health and Family Welfare, and co-chaired by the Minister of Science and Technology, the State Health Ministers would be its vice-chairpersons and the Secretary, Department of Health Research, its member-secretary. All Union Secretaries of various departments of Science and Technology will be the members as also the Directorate-General of Health Services and some health experts.

The policy, which was proposed in 2007 after the Ministry created a separate Department of Health Research, is aimed at ensuring that the results of health are translated into action. It will foster inter-sectoral coordination in health research including all departments within the government, private sector and the academia to promote innovation and ensure effective translation to encourage indigenous production of diagnostics, vaccine, therapeutics and medical devices.

Needed: clear policy

Accepting that there was also a “compelling need to build multidisciplinary research blending physical, medical and social sciences, the final draft says the increasing international collaborative research in priority areas of national health also necessitates a clearly spelt-out policy to ensure that the contributions of our international partners can enhance the ability of the partnership to improve national health. Some of the conflicts and failures of Indian health research can be attributed to the absence of such an overarching policy, it says.

Propelling development

The Policy will be implemented through a National Health Research System wherein all research agencies, cutting across Ministries and sectors, identify priority areas of research and coordinate with each other to avoid duplication, fragmentation, redundancy and gaps in knowledge, to enable the results of research to transform health as a major driving force for development.

Health research is a systematic generation of knowledge that can be used to promote, restore, maintain or protect health of individuals and populations. According to the draft policy, in 2007, 96 per cent of the research publications in India emanated from nine medical colleges out of a total of 300.

Link: Original Article

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