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26 Mar 2019

The Federal Government will provide $160 million for a national research initiative to improve the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The Indigenous Health Research Fund will be a 10-year research program funded from the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF).

It will support practical, innovative research into the best approaches to prevention, early intervention, and treatment of health conditions of greatest concern to Indigenous communities.

The funding’s first three flagship priorities, which aim to deliver rapid solutions to some of the biggest preventable health challenges faced by First Nations peoples, are ending avoidable blindness; ending avoidable deafness; and ending rheumatic heart disease.

Indigenous Health Minister Ken Wyatt recently announced the first project to be funded under the Indigenous Health Research Fund, being $35 million for the development of a vaccine to eliminate rheumatic heart disease in Australia.

Australia currently has the highest rate of rheumatic heart disease in the world.

Every year, nearly 250 children are diagnosed with acute rheumatic fever and 50 to 150 people die from rheumatic heart disease in Australia. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are 64 times more likely than non-Indigenous people to develop rheumatic heart disease, and nearly 20 times as likely to die from it.

The remaining $125 million Indigenous Health Research funding will be focussed on research projects that fall into five key areas – guaranteeing a healthy start to life; improving primary health care; overcoming the origins of inequality in health; reducing the burden of disease; and addressing emerging challenges.

An advisory panel comprising prominent Indigenous research experts and community leaders, co-chaired by Professor Alex Brown (South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute) and Dr Misty Jenkins (Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research), will guide the Indigenous Health Research Fund investments.

It will be the first national research fund led by Indigenous people, and conducted with close engagement with Indigenous communities.

The Indigenous Health Research Fund will also seek contributions from philanthropic organisations, State Governments, industry, and the private sector in order to increase the reach and impact of the fund.

“It is time to come together as a nation to work as partners in bringing equity in health outcomes” Mr Wyatt said.

“The Indigenous Health Research Fund will provide the knowledge and understanding to make health programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people more effective and lead to lasting health improvements.

“This is key to closing the gap in health outcomes since, despite considerable investment by the Commonwealth in existing programs, Indigenous Australians currently have about a 10 year lower life expectancy and 2.3 times the burden of disease compared to non-Indigenous Australians.”



Published: 26 Mar 2019