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Council consults on Indigenous health research funding


Researchers asked to name their priorities for special Indigenous health funding call

The National Health and Medical Research Council is planning a boost to its spending on Indigenous health issues.

It has called for submissions on the areas that should be covered by a Targeted Call for Research, which would be a funding round in addition to its usual funding activities.

Targeted calls are designed to “address a specific health issue where there is a significant research knowledge gap or unmet need”, the council says.

Researchers are being asked to nominate specific areas of health research that would benefit most from extra funding and would directly improve health outcomes. The suggested areas must also line up with federal and state policy priorities.

Under the council’s corporate plan, the welfare of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders is a “major health issue”. The council spent A$54.4 million on 250 grants across this area in 2019, with A$34m of that going to research on public and general health service provision.

The distribution of grants is guided by a roadmap, issued in 2018 after community consultation, that calls for greater support for Indigenous researchers and a move away from the concept of “closing the gap”, which is a “deficit” approach to measuring health outcomes.

In 2020, the council took submissions on a proposed national network for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health researchers. An announcement on that funding was due in December but a spokesperson told Research Professional News that recommendations were still being finalised, with an announcement due “in the coming months”. The network is expected to bring the voices of Indigenous health researchers together and become an organisation that guides research funding.

The Medical Research Future Fund also has its own Indigenous health research fund, which is two years into a programme of A$147.5m worth of research funding over 10 years.

Submissions to the National Health and Medical Research Council’s consultation on spending are open until May.