5 December 2021

Support for health and medical research funding is at its highest level in more than a decade, with the COVID-19 pandemic prompting Australians to urge policymakers to prioritise research above taking action on climate change, keeping the national economy strong, defence and national infrastructure projects.

A major nationwide survey from peak health and medical research body Research Australia, conducted by Roy Morgan, has found that Australians rank health and medical research in the top three priorities for government, sitting only behind improvements to hospitals and healthcare and improvements to education standards.

More than one-third said the pandemic had prompted them to change their views on the importance of health and medical research and think that more funding should flow to the sector.

The survey – which has been conducted annually since 2003 to gauge Australians’ views – also shows that over 90 per cent of people support vaccination. Of those who did not support vaccination, nearly 8 out of 10 indicated that they would feel more confident about vaccines if they understood more about how they are created and tested, suggesting better education is the key to improving vaccination reach.

Research Australia CEO Nadia Levin said the findings clearly showed how COVID-19 had shaped Australians’ understanding of the enormous impact delivered by health and medical research.

“The pandemic has touched all of us and taken a terrible toll across the world,” Ms Levin said.

“Thanks to vaccines created through unprecedented international collaborations between researchers, hope is now in sight – but we wouldn’t be at this stage without the expertise and hard work of the health and medical research community, and the financial support to enable this enormous response.

“Australians are telling us that health and medical research has to remain a priority for our decision makers post-pandemic, and they’re absolutely right.

“Health and medical research delivers innovations and discoveries which shape all of our lives, improving our healthcare systems and driving breakthroughs in chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.

“The Australian health and research sector punches well beyond its weight, but competition for funding is extremely fierce. With additional pressure on Australian universities due to the loss of international students, the risk of losing many of our brightest research minds overseas has magnified.

“As the peak body for Australian health and medical research, representing the entire pipeline from the laboratory to patient and the marketplace, we urge policymakers to closely read these findings and listen to the views of voters.

“Health and medical research must be seen and treated as the critical national capability it is – not only to ensure our health and quality of life, but as a key driver of our economy.”

Please see 2021 Public Opinion Poll on Health and Medical Research here.

Research Australia is the national peak body for Australian health and medical research. 

Media contact: Pia Akerman 0412 346 746

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