The Australian Government has committed $23.2 million through the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) to 28 new projects, and has launched a NHMRC Road Map 3 to help chart the direction for Indigenous health and medical research investment over the next ten years.
New research investment will include targeted renal, cancer and social and emotional wellbeing projects aimed at improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health outcomes.
“Investigation and investment where it is needed is critical to delivering better health outcomes for First Nations Peoples, to protect lives and save lives,” Health Minister Greg Hunt said.
“Today we visited the Purple House Renal Clinic in Alice Springs and have seen first-hand the debilitating effects of poor kidney health.”
“Kidney disease disproportionately affects Indigenous Australians — research has shown that almost one in five (18 per cent) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged over 18 had indicators of chronic kidney disease.”
“I am delighted that we can announce $327,192 for Monash University to develop a point-of-care test for the diagnosis and management of chronic kidney disease.” Minister Hunt said social and emotional well-being was another critical matter for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, especially youth.
“The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has found that the single largest contributor to ill health amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians is mental health and substance use disorders,” said Minister Hunt.
“Five projects across five different states will examine social and emotional well-being issues affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander infants, children, adolescents and young adults.”
“They will undertake culturally-informed research looking at the influencing factors, mental health and life-coaching, and fostering wellness.”
The five projects together form the first of a series of targeted calls for research by the NHMRC to address Indigenous health priorities. Other calls will include healthy ageing and nutrition.
Minister for Indigenous Health, Ken Wyatt AM, said the new research projects would help to strengthen work already underway to curb chronic disease.
“The renal point-of-care test will complement the Renal Health Road Map that is currently being compiled,” Minister Wyatt said.
“This exciting new research is focused on making a difference on the ground, from reducing smoking during pregnancy and boosting cancer care, to combating diabetic blindness and improving diets.”
“The five social and emotional wellbeing projects are especially welcome, as we continue working with local communities to reduce the rate of suicide.”
Other key research projects announced today include point-of-care testing for blood-borne diseases and sexually transmitted infections, reducing incarceration rates of young women, improving prisoner mental health, burns care, lung health, scabies testing and reducing unborn baby deaths.
The direction of future First Nations research will be informed by the NHMRC’s Road Map 3, which will include a yearly report card and a commitment to spend at least 5% of annual NHMRC funding on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and medical research.
“Most importantly, the NHMRC Road Map 3 was developed in consultation with communities, First Nations researchers and the broader health and medical research sector to address Indigenous health issues and encourage and strengthen the capacity of Indigenous researchers, now and into the future,” said Minister Wyatt.
The NHMRC has today also released the Ethical conduct in research with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and communities: Guidelines for researchers and stakeholders as well as Keeping Research on Track II.
The Guidelines provide a set of principles to ensure that research is safe, respectful, responsible, high-quality and of benefit to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities.