A discussion paper on new priorities for New Zealand’s investment in health research funding and time was released earlier this month for online feedback. A series of public meetings with the Māori, Pacific and disabled communities will be held in early October in Christchurch, Auckland, Dunedin and Wellington. 

The priorities project is a joint initiative between the Health Research Council (HRC), the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) to target health research investment into addressing the big issues that New Zealand faces now, and in the future. The aim is to coordinate not only HRC funding but also all government-funded health research to foster excellent and innovative research, a vibrant research sector, strong pathways from research into practice, and commercial opportunities.

“We see excellent research as being ethical, scientifically sound, original, relevant, purposeful and impactful,” says the paper.

The paper says innovation can include clinical tests or interventions (e.g. drugs, devices, medical or surgical procedures); public health interventions (e.g. immunisation or screening programmes); service delivery models (e.g. clinical pathways, models of care, patient safety systems, management systems); technology, information or other support systems (e.g. electronic records systems, telemedicine, biobanks).

Curiosity-driven health research that falls outside of the new priorities is expected to be funded through other sources, such as academic institutional funding, the Centres of Research Excellence, and the Marsden Fund.

An online survey on the discussion paper is open until 12 October 2018.

The paper sets out five Strategic Investment Areas (see below) with six research activity dimensions under which the new research priorities will sit. No specific research priorities are suggested in the current draft, which instead puts forward some thought-provokers for feedback. 

  1. Strong foundations of health and wellbeing in children and youth (including pre-conception, first 1,000 days of life from conception, and reducing infectious diseases, injuries and maltreatment).
  2. Sustain health and wellbeing throughout adulthood and ageing (including improving prevention, diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic disease, using big data, public health interventions etc).
  3. Fostering the health and disability system New Zealand needs (including community-driven care, utilising innovations, responding and delivering to knowledge needs of frontline health care).
  4. Innovating for health and wealth (including addressing in tandem ethical considerations and working with commercial sector to develop and benefit from research innovations).
  5. Meeting the challenges of our changing world (including climate change, predicting future health challenges due to changing population, emerging disease, technology impact and drug resistance).

For further details on the public meetings or to register interest in attending a public meeting, contact Dr Alexandra Boyle at aboyle@hrc.govt.nz.


  1. What an excellent idea to establish a debate, a discussion, on New Zealand’s health priorities. It must be understood that these priorities must be set rationally, i.e. in accordance with proper statistics about the overall relevance of the many various illnesses, complaints or conditions – and with consistent reference to what the financial costs are likely to be. In fact, here we meet with the real problem : Just who will eventually determine these “priorities”? Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?? We must proceed with some basic rules for all this : 1. The decisions must never be subject to any bias as to race, gender, culture or social standing. And 2. : We must consciously weed out any obligation to be “politically correct”. The only, all deciding yardstick must be ethics and charity.

    This will not not be at all easy. We may need a Royal Commission to establish such “priorities” without fear or favour.


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