Members' of Parliament knowledge of and attitudes toward health research and funding

Clark, Daniel R.; McGrath, Patrick J.; MacDonald, Noni
October 2007
CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal;10/23/2007, Vol. 177 Issue 9, p1045
Academic Journal
Background: Establishment of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) in 2000 resulted in increased funding for health research in Canada. Since 2001, the number of proposals submitted to CIHR that, following peer review, are judged to be of scientific merit to warrant funding, has grown by 77%. But many of these proposals do not receive funding because of budget constraints. Given the role of Members of Parliament in setting government funding priorities, we surveyed Members of Parliament about their knowledge of and attitudes toward health research, health research funding and CIHR. Methods: All Members of Parliament were invited to participate, or to designate a senior aide to participate, in a 15-minute survey of knowledge of and attitudes toward health research, health research funding and CIHR. Interviews were conducted between July 15, 2006, and Dec. 20, 2006. Responses were analyzed by party affiliation, region and years of service as a Member of Parliament. Results: A total of 101 of 308 Members of Parliament or their designated senior aides participated in the survey. Almost one-third of respondents were senior aides. Most of the respondents (84%) were aware of CIHR, but 32% knew nothing about its role. Participants believed that health research is a critical component of a strong health care system and that it is underfunded. Overall, 78% felt that the percentage of total government spending directed to health research funding was too low; 85% felt the same way about the percentage of government health care spending directed to health research. Fifty-four percent believed that the federal government should provide both funding and guidelines for health research, and 66% believed that the business sector should be the primary source of health research funding. Participants (57%) most frequently defined health research as study into cures or treatments of disease, and 22% of participants were aware that CIHR is the main federal government funding organization for health research. Participants perceived health research to be a low priority for Canadian voters (mean ranking 3.8⁄10, with 1 being unimportant and 10 being extremely important [SD 1.85]). Interpretation: Our results highlight significant knowledge gaps among Members of Parliament regarding health research. Many of these knowledge gaps will need to be addressed if health research is to become a priority.


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