Aid is undeniably important to help poor countries address immediate needs, and crises. “However, relaying on aid solely doesn’t make an impact to a country’s development. We must go beyond aid,” said Council for Health Research and Development’s (COHRED) Director Dr. Carel Ijsselmuiden in his keynote message during the 6th Philippine National Health Research System (PNHRS) Week held at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza, Pasay City on 9 August 2012.
“Despite the growing investment in health research and development (R&D) and decades of increasing aid, many countries still see millions of people dying,” said Dr. Ijsselmuiden. The mortalities are attributed to lack of access to medicines, ineffective or counterfeit drugs and the absence of cures to the world’s biggest killer diseases, worsened by the population boom and the economic recessions that have wrought havoc on the finances of many developed countries. “Aid will never be enough,” warned Dr. Ijsselmuiden.
Going beyond aid, according to Dr. Ijsselmuiden, does not mean abandoning reliance on aid altogether, but how funds are being spent to get best results. “Spending should be based on local priorities. It should be based on local health needs of the country. Identify and use local problems to create opportunity for health research and innovations,” said Dr. Ijsselmuiden.
Going beyond aid also encourages capacity building of local scientists in developing a thriving research environment. Dr. Ijsselmuiden cited that in order to make change happen, a public-private-partnership (PPP) is encouraged. “PPP means, getting together those people who normally do not get together. Health researchers do meet regularly in research colloquium, forum, etc., but where are the businessmen? Where are the journalists? Where are the social entrepreneurs? We must involve all of them to create an environment of innovation.”
Innovations for health usually mean R&D outputs such as new medicines and health technologies. However, Dr. Ijsselmuiden added that innovations for health may also refer to creative ways to organize and deliver health care, manage information, respond to the needs of health providers and users, develop business models to increase productivity and sustainability, and ensure that vulnerable disadvantage groups become healthier through solutions promoting equity.
He also cited that innovation for health is not only limited to healthcare but also relevant to other sectors that have an impact on health and well being, such as agriculture, education and economic development. Thus, building a system enabling key sectors is vital to support health research and innovation in the country.
Dr. Ijsselmuiden commends the Philippines for having an established health research system – the PNHRS. “This would be an advantage for the country to avail international funding but it’s not a guarantee. What is more considered today is that, whether a country has the capability to offer high-tech, sophisticated and good quality controlled research.” He then challenged PNHRS to invest more on local system to build capacity in order to access the international domain not only for funding but to produce innovative research, technology and solutions that promote health and development leading to more productive, healthy and more fulfilling lives for all.