“Basically, everyone needs to be healthy in order to be productive,” 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.
Dr. Ijsselmuiden explained that health affects all aspects of life including economic and socio-political development. “You must be healthy to be working, you must be healthy to earn money, and you must have money to do socio-political development. Here, the concept of health research is not only to maintain health but for its economic and socio-political values,” said Dr. Ijsselmuiden.
Health research is critical in improving health and health outcomes to achieve developmental goals. Dr. Ijsselmuiden cited the experience of India where they spent around 200 million dollars in 2007 on pharmaceutical research and production. This endeavour was not just meant to make India healthier but to also make India the leader in global pharmaceutical domain.
“Health research and innovation are keys for health. If you deal with health problems like dengue, malaria, malnutrition, among others, the effect is even more important because it can deal with social determinants of health. It can change the socio-economic environment and gives direct economic value,” explained Dr. Ijsselmuiden.
Likewise, through health research and innovation, new and emerging industries arise and open huge livelihood opportunities. One good example is the experience of Tanzania in Africa on impregnated bed nets. These bed nets are health research products, used to control malaria both in Asia and Africa. Because of its health benefits, the demand for impregnated bed nets increased. “This local industry is now producing 50% of the world’s impregnated bed nets and providing jobs to more than 7,000 people around the world. Here, you can see the example of direct health benefits and economic benefits coming together,” added Dr. Ijsselmuiden.
Another example is the industry of human genome project which has an investment of around $3.8 billion. This project already generated an income of approximately $800 billion and created an approximately 310,000 jobs worldwide.
“These, and many other health research success stories proved that, indeed, health research and innovation play a vital role in a country’s health, economic and socio-political development,” said Dr. Ijsselmuiden.
However, in order to be part of these opportunities in health research, Dr. Ijsselmuiden stressed that the Philippines should be technically ready and have a system to take part on these sophisticated projects. He commends the Philippines for having an established health research system – the PNHRS. “This would be a good kick-off for the country to start working to be ready for those big global opportunities. I encourage you to invest in your people, invest on capacity building because one of the key things that will go in the future is to become competitive with other countries. If you want to be attractive outside, you need to show that you are better than your neighbour next door,” said Dr. Ijsselmuiden.