Continued growth and success in BC’s health research enterprise must take into account the broader context of national and international trends in technology, investment strategies, and models for generating and using research.
Increasingly, user-centric diagnostic and treatment technologies — such as mobile health, telehealth and social media — offer unprecedented opportunities to improve health and wellness. But their effect on costs and quality of care are not yet known. The notion of truly personalized medicine based on our biology and our individual priorities as patients is growing rapidly. Both supporting and driving this paradigm shift is a wealth of data that hold the potential for new insights into patterns of disease, effective treatments, and more efficient health-care delivery. Data-driven research has significant potential, but we need to unlock this data while maintaining an individual’s right to privacy and the security of our systems.
More than ever, health research is being called upon to develop, test and implement products, programs and policies. It can also help inform decision-making about what we need to stop doing and determine where outcomes, costs or quality may be seriously compromised.
While the need for health research is growing, both federal and provincial investments have been limited in recent years as a result of the global economic downturn. Health research funding from federal sources has dropped by 14 percent since 2006 (Figure Three). Increasingly, federal investments are being redirected to research with ties to commercialization. While BC has benefited from this shift, it is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain resources for some types of health research. For a strong health research ecosystem, balanced support for all stages of the innovation continuum — basic science, translation and commercialization — is required, in addition to ongoing support for research in health promotion, disease prevention and the health system.
Lastly, the way research is conducted is changing. Advances in knowledge have traditionally been made by individual researchers, often working in isolation, on problems they chose to pursue. In an era of constrained resources and increasingly complex problems — and with new and innovative methods, tools and skills emerging — there are significant opportunities to identify and address problems differently by involving the full range of stakeholders who produce and use research.