Australians want significantly more investment poured into finding better treatments, preventions and cures for the two leading killer diseases in Australia – cancer and heart disease.
Research Australia's annual public opinion poll, this year conducted by Crosby Textor, shows cancer is the single major disease striking fear in the hearts of Australians. Two in three (64%) want a significant increase in funding for cancer research, compared to one in four (23%) who want additional resources for heart disease research.
Australians also want more action on solving the big emerging health issues associated with modern lifestyles. With weight increasing across the population and mental health issues like depression, once the domain of the adult population, creeping into children's lives, 18% of Australians want more diabetes research, 11% want more effort placed on obesity research and 14% want research into mental health ramped up.
Research Australia CEO, Dr Christine Bennett, said the message from the 2005 poll is loud and clear – Australians identify health and medical research as a top national priority and want an all-of-community effort to substantially increase funding and resources.
"The majority of Australians agree there needs to be more funding for health and medical research over the next two to three years and the overwhelming majority consider education and health and medical research equally as the two most important sectors for the country's future," said Dr Bennett.
Out of 22 listed priorities, health and medical research rated sixth highest, ahead of improving employment opportunities, maintaining a strong focus on domestic border control, improving overseas trade and export and keeping interest rates low. Improving hospitals and the health care system is deemed the top priority.
Dr Bennett said the results highlight that Australians prize their health above all.
"Australians want access to the very best treatments possible as well as disease prevention and public health programs so that they keep their health as they get older. They are prepared to contribute to health and medical research as individuals but want government, corporate Australia, the biotech and pharmaceutical industry and charitable foundations to also come to the party," said Dr Bennett.
The poll showed the overwhelming majority of Australians (84%) think Australians should have access to the latest medicines, medical devices and clinical treatments even if this means increased taxes or redirecting funding from other areas.
One in two (50%) Australians say they would prefer surplus Government funds to be directed at health and medical research compared to only 23% who would rather receive a tax cut and 18% who would like increased funding for other areas.
Eighty-six percent (86%) of those surveyed believe Commonwealth Government funding for health and medical research should be more than the 0.12% of GDP it received in 2003, with more than half (57%) stating it should be much more.
And more than eight in ten (84%) think large Australian corporations should donate to health and medical research as a way of giving back to the community.
Dr Bennett said polling highlighted that it was time for the Government to consider tax incentives to drive the growth of research and development at industry level similar to the approach taken by other progressive countries and regions like Singapore, Japan, Ireland and the European Union.
"Three quarters of Australians believe there should be tax incentives for biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies to fund and conduct research and development within Australia, while two thirds would like tax concessions increased for companies investing in health and medical research," she said.
The poll also revealed that two thirds (67%) of Australians agree that the problem of lack of funding means Australian discoveries are often commercially developed by other countries, resulting in lost economic gain for the nation.
Source: Eurekalert & othersLast reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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