The future is research

There’s a quiet revolution happening in healthcare, fueled by research and, if you join the revolution, it will help you to live a long and healthy life.  We’re planning that revolution now, and we’re offering you the opportunity to have input into the planning process.

What’s this revolution all about? 

The ‘internet of things’ is already here. It knows where you are and, if you choose, it can know how you are. Technology already allows you to record your physical activity and physiological data (blood pressure, sleep record, anxiety level, and physical activity) via a personal wearable, and soon it will develop further to combine that data with your food consumption via your smart fridge and grocery bill.  Your unique genome, and your health history, will combine with your real time data on lifestyle to create a personal private data profile that by comparison with de-identified public data collections, will give information about your current health status, and about how to avoid future health risks.

How will this work in practice?  

Whether you live in the city or the outback, your lounge room will be your personal doctor’s waiting-room. Interactive telemedicine, assisted by artificial intelligence, will allow you to monitor your own health, seek advice and support from others in the community, and consult health practitioners locally and worldwide.

For me personally, what’s the price? 

To take advantage of this revolution, you’ll be giving up a little about yourself, de-identified information in a secure data pool shared to promote your own awareness, with an option to contribute to research and broader population health knowledge.  Planning for future physical health will be equivalent to staying socially connected and should have a potentially huge pay-off – a longer and healthier life, not just for you but also for your children, who have half of your genes, and share much of the same environment.  To win in the health sweepstakes, you will need to take an active part. It’s not enough to provide your personal data and bio-assets, you’ll have to be prepared to change your lifestyle.

If I go along with this, what’s the benefit?  

Health and medical research, supported by sharing of community data about health, will show us how to reduce risk of chronic disease, and provide new treatments for cancer, diabetes, and dementia.   Australia is a global powerhouse in this effort.  Supported by ongoing investment through the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and, from last year, the new Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF), Australia is set to double its contribution to medical research and lead the transformation of healthcare.  In doing so, we will create new services, treatments and therapies, and these in turn mean more jobs and business activity for Australians.  Health and medical research enables a healthy, happy and productive society.

Why do I need to do this now?

As we age, more of us need healthcare, and optimal healthcare is becoming more expensive, as new and powerful but expensive treatments for chronic disease become available.  We already spend over 10 percent of the wealth generated each year in Australia on healthcare, and this percentage is increasing annually.  Unless we control this growth in health costs, the public healthcare dollars will not stretch to cover the costs of effective new drugs, devices, treatments and even cures, from which all Australians stand to benefit, for the major population health challenges we face as we age, including cancer and dementia.  The revolution, if successful, will reduce overall healthcare costs, allowing not only better access to new treatments, but also potentially freeing up extra funding from the public purse for education, aged care, and other social benefits.

How can I contribute to controlling the exponential growth in healthcare costs?  

As responsible health service consumers, we need to embrace research and technology as tools in our care.  Personal commitment to our healthcare is not necessarily easy, as it requires our active participation, and sharing of our data. However, it will be supported by an increased effort through research.  Australia is fortunate to now have two complementary and strategically positioned funds for medical research:  the NHMRC, predominantly supporting researcher-led ideas, and the newly created MRFF, with priority investments determined in consultation with the Australian community.  Through these agencies, health and medical research funding in Australia is predicted to exceed $2 billion per annum beyond 2021, and this two-pronged approach will work to ensure that the discovery and translational research bring the health revolution into all of our homes and daily routines.  Significantly, the MRFF will also fund longer term world class collaborative efforts or missions to tackle big challenges in health and disease, and to ensure that we continue to contribute globally to improving health.  The independent Australian Medical Research Advisory Board supports the MRFF by advising the Australian Government on the best strategies and priorities for use of MRFF funding.

So, how can I help?

In 2018, the MRFF Advisory Board wishes to consult with you, as a consumer of health services, to understand how you think the planned health and medical research investment can best contribute to you and your family’s future health.  All Australians can, and should, get involved in the discussion and debate around what we want the healthcare revolution to deliver.  Our future health is in our own hands – in partnership with the health system, we can give ourselves the best chance of a long and healthy life. More information on the MRFF consultation process will be revealed shortly via

Photo by Elena de Soto on Unsplash