COMPARED to other developing countries, the Philippines has a reasonable amount of internal funding, better infrastructure, higher health expenditures per capita, and more institutional capacity.
This, according to the Geneva-based Council on Health Research for Development.
Health and health-related researches in the country are usually funded by the academe, funding agencies of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), and other organizations.
Generally, research should be aligned with the funding institutions priorities.
DOST, for example, prioritizes its research activities based on the National Science and Technology Plan (2002 to 2020).
Within the health/medical sciences sector, the priorities and directions for S&T development include:
– control of communicable diseases
– early detection and prevention of non-communicable diseases
– accurate diagnosis of common tropical diseases
– immuno-diagnostics and bio-sensors for priority diseases
– telemedicine and bioinformatics
– development of biopharmaceutical products
– production of drugs and recombinant vaccines using known and patent-lapsed technologies
– development of natural health/medicinal products
– functional foods/nutraceuticals development and standardization; and
– vaccine and antibiotics development for local needs
Research funding can be sought from DOST agencies, such as the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development, Philippine Council for Advanced Science and Technology Research and Development, Philippine Council for Industry and Energy Research and Development, and the National Research Council of the Philippines.
Funding approval is based on the potential application and significance of the research to the agencies priority areas.
Meanwhile, the Department of Health (DOH) refers to the National Unified Health Research Agenda for its priorities.
For researches classified under the priority agenda, funding can come from the office of Health Policy Development and Planning Bureau, which also assists researchers in looking for funding for priority researches through its institutional partners.
The DOH requires 5 percent of its budgets to be allotted for research. This means funding can also be requested from any DOH agency.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has high expectations. Health research can help map the way forward, he says.
Health researchers who are at the daily battles of experiment and innovation can direct health policy makers, field workers and program managers on how things can be better done in the health sector.
There are four basic elements needed to fully develop the countrys health research system, says Dr. Jaime Montoya, executive director of the Department of Science and Technologys Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD).
These are capability building; ethical standards development and dissemination; resource generation and utilization; and information dissemination.
Capability building, Montoya points out, means creating more centers of excellence for research that will improve the quality and depth of basic science research.
Eventually, this will lead to generation of new investment and income through the development of new products, he says.
Capability building also entails improvement of infrastructure and development of highly skilled researchers, such as those familiar with Good Clinical Practices and Standards of Registration of Pharmaceuticals for Human use.
Montoya says that Filipino researchers lack training and laboratory facilities essential to high level research work, especially in various teaching hospitals and medical centers. The researchers need specialized training to keep abreast with the advances in science and technology.
Montoya points out that if our research is to be truly responsive, it is important to follow internationally accepted ethical standards.
This means every patient should be guaranteed with care following the principles of autonomy, beneficence, non-malfeasance and justice.
He believes that the shortage of resources will always be an issue here as it is in most countries.
A practical approach I see is to increase cooperation between the national programs and health initiatives so that they address common problems ideally aligned with our research priorities, Montoya says. This kind of cooperation creates new funding by focusing the attention of existing activities on common goals.
Higher investment and bigger impact can be achieved by working together toward a common agenda, he says. In addition to unlocking new funds, this approach fosters participative democracy and a spirit of community responsibility to contribute to the overall good.
Montoya wants to improve the relevance and use of health research produced in the country through an enhanced information strategy that will directly support health research.
He observes that a big percentage of health researches produced in the country are unpublished, hampering the ability of local researchers to share the knowledge created with the national health research system.
Montoya suggests that information dissemination can be scaled up by expanding medical informatics services, and using information technology to offer broader access to the good work done by Filipino researchers.
For him, improving information makes research more relevant to society, from the common folks to those people who shape policy.
Moreover, he stresses that communication of health research goes beyond publishing and dissemination. It should directly support better delivery of health to all Filipinos, he says.
If we are serious about one day curing poverty in this country, then we have to do more than prevent and control disease, Duque says.
Through health research, the backwardness of destitution as a breeding ground for more disease, can be altered, he says. — Framelia V. Anonas, Manila Times