The major national health issues outlined below are NHMRC's health priorities for the 2021–2024 triennium.
The National Health and Medical Research Council Act 1992 (NHMRC Act) requires the CEO to identify major national health issues likely to arise in the coming year and beyond. The major national health issues outlined below have been identified by the NHMRC CEO as priorities for NHMRC for the triennium from 1 July 2021 until 30 June 2024. NHMRC reviews its priorities every three years. In determining NHMRC's health priorities, the CEO consults with the Council, its committees and the Minister, and considers the role of NHMRC within Australia's health and medical research landscape, before determining the issues that are within NHMRC's scope.
NHMRC's longstanding approach is to deliver funding that builds the foundations of the national health and medical research system:
- high-quality research along the pipeline from discovery to implementation
- an excellent biomedical, clinical, public health and health systems research workforce
- national and international partnerships between disciplines and with the community, health providers and industry.
Through a mix of investigator-initiated and targeted research, NHMRC supports research across the broad range of health and medical needs.
The introduction of the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) is rapidly and dramatically changing the health and medical research landscape. As a priority-driven research fund, its success depends on the foundations of research excellence and capability built with NHMRC funding. NHMRC will continue to support this broad base to underpin and complement the MRFF's research missions and programs and to ensure Australia can meet its present and future health challenges.
Accordingly, NHMRC's health priorities reflect broad health challenges and emerging issues where national capacity or capability in health and medical research is most needed, rather than specific diseases. They also reflect areas where NHMRC's role in promoting the highest standards in health research and care can contribute to addressing major national health issues likely to arise.
The major national health issues, also called NHMRC's health priorities, for the 2021–2024 triennium are outlined below. NHMRC Council and its committees will provide advice on the key actions to support implementation of the health priorities, informed by monitoring and evaluation of previous and existing investments and horizon scanning of these and other emerging health issues.
NHMRC's health priorities for the 2021–2024 triennium
Strengthening resilience to emerging health threats and emergencies, including environmental change, pandemics and antimicrobial resistance
- Consider offering targeted research funding opportunities to build Australian capacity or capability to strengthen resilience to emerging health threats and emergencies.
- Continue to offer flexibility to NHMRC-funded researchers to pivot their research to COVID-19 and encourage researchers to contribute to the national and international research response to COVID-19.
- Participate in the Global Research Collaboration for Infectious Disease Preparedness (GloPID-R) and other relevant fora.
- Continue to support the National COVID-19 Health and Research Advisory Committee (NCHRAC) to provide advice to the Chief Medical Officer on the health response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Improving the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people including through research that addresses health inequities
- Consider the outcomes of the stakeholder and public consultation on research priorities in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.
- Consider offering targeted research funding opportunities with a focus on the health system and social and cultural determinants of health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Information regarding the previous targeted calls for research.
- Continue to implement Road Map 3: A strategic framework for improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health through research.
Building capacity and innovation in the effective translation of research into quality health policy, services and care
- Continue to recognise and accredit Translation Centres that bring together researchers, healthcare providers, policy makers, industry and education and training to improve the health and wellbeing of patients and populations.
- Consider offering targeted research funding opportunities to build Australian capacity or capability to improve health care or policy, digital health services or innovations in the health system.
Preventing and managing multimorbidity and chronic conditions
- Participate in the Global Alliance for Chronic Diseases (GACD).
- Work with the Department of Health to consider actions to support the National Preventive Health Strategy.
- Continue to allocate specific funding to support dementia research on prevention, early diagnosis, quality care and treatments.
- Consider offering targeted research funding opportunities to build Australian capacity or capability to improve health care or innovations in the health system to prevent or manage multimorbidity and chronic conditions.
Identifying emerging technologies in health and medical research and in health care, and promoting their safe, ethical and effective application
- Implement the new regulatory framework for mitochondrial donation through NHMRC's Embryo Research Licensing Committee.
- Review the Ethical Guidelines for Assisted Reproductive Technology to support the safe, ethical and effective implementation of mitochondrial donation in an Australian clinical trial.
- Identify and advise on emerging technologies with potential impact on health and medical research and health care.
- Consider and advise on the ethical implications and regulation of rapidly emerging technologies in research and health care, such as embryoids and organoids, stem cells and gene editing technologies, and the use of artificial intelligence and big data.