Work starts on health and medical research strategy

Finding ways for local medical research to help more South Australians will be a key focus of the state’s first Health and Medical Research Strategy, the State Government says.

The Government has started consultation on the strategy with industry stakeholders including universities, research institutions and health professionals, with the aim of improving health of South Australians, securing more grant funding and better attracting and retaining industry leaders.

Leading neuroscientist and researcher Professor Sir Edward Byrne AC has been appointed to provide advice to SA Health while leading discussions with groups such as the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute to help shape the strategy.

Health Minister Chris Picton said the strategy would consider all aspects of the sector to improve health, social and economic outcomes for the community.

He said it would outline what is needed to minimize the time taken for ground-breaking research to translate into better health outcomes, including how technology can boost productivity and performance.

Picton said it would also consider ways to secure more national and international grant funding, attract and retain industry talent and promote collaboration – “rather than competitive duplication” – across the local sector, in addition to future workforce needs.

“The appointment of highly respected clinician Professor Sir Edward Byrne AC is testament to how important research is to our healthcare system,” Picton said.

“His leadership in developing our new strategy… will provide the best care and better outcomes for South Australians.”

Picton said implementing a strategy was a key recommendation in the South Australian Productivity Commission’s report handed down in November 2020 after the former Liberal government called for an inquiry into health and medical research.

He blamed the former government for significant delays in getting to work on the strategy.

An Opposition spokesperson responded, saying: “Following years of neglect by Labor, the former Liberal Government acted by commissioning the review – which was completed during the pandemic – and tasked SA Health with delivering a strategy despite the ongoing pressures caused by COVID-19. ”

The Government said consultation would occur over the next few months, with a draft strategy to be released early next year for feedback, before the final strategy is released mid next year.

SA Health’s executive director for strategy and intergovernmental relations, Skye Jacobi, said the pandemic had created a “driving force for our health system to embrace innovation in care delivery and digital health, as well as positively building new collaborative arrangements and partnerships”.

“Our targeted consultation process will include innovation in service and clinical care delivery; workforce attraction and retention; optimizing health data and assets; and economic attraction through strengthened grant applications,” she said.

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