Diabetes research funding – simply not enough

Last Friday, the successful National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) grant recipients were announced.

Let’s start with the good news.

Funding for 848 grants was announced, totalling over $580 million across a wide range of health conditions. This includes project grants, partnership projects, Centres of Research Excellence and other Fellowships and grants.

This is great stuff. Medical research is essential and we should be encouraging more dollars being delivered to the very clever clinicians, researchers and scientists carrying out this important work. ‘Cures not Cuts’ is a motto we should be thinking about all the time – not only when there is a real or perceived threat to funding dollars.

Diabetes received $54 million in grants for 60 research projects.

Here is the not so good news.

Diabetes received $54 million in grants for 60 research projects.

That’s right. The good news is also the bad news. Whilst it is terrific that 60 research projects received funding and $54 million is not to be sneezed at, I do not believe that it is enough.

Cancer received funding of $89.9 million for 156 projects, and cardiovascular disease $82.4 million across 106 grants. All of these are worthy and should be funded. Make no mistake – I am not saying that money should not be given to cancer or CVD research. Of course I am not.

I am told that when funding announcements are made, there is also dissatisfaction amongst the cancer community, with many ‘lower profile’ cancers often being overlooked. Ovarian, pancreatic and lung cancer are frequently considered the poor cousins of the cancer world, despite significant numbers of people being affected by – and dying from – these cancers.

Of course, we can argue that the money is never enough. We can argue that we are all self-interested and only care about our own condition or the condition affecting our family and friends and to a degree, that is absolutely true.

Please understand, I am not saying that diabetes is worse than any other disease or health condition. Any regular readers of this blog will know that I absolutely do not subscribe to the ‘my condition is worse than yours’ arguments.

But if we are to believe that the magnitude of the ‘diabetes problem’ – and there is some pretty compelling evidence to support that it will indeed be the largest health burden in Australia by 2017 – then surely we need to see a bigger investment into diabetes research. We need diabetes to be’ top of mind’ as the number one health concern.

The results of last Friday’s funding announcements reinforce what I wrote here about diabetes having an image problem when it comes to funding – and fundraising. With more and more people affected, surely this should be reflected in increased funding for research, programs and services.

We’re not seeing that.

DISCLAIMER

At the risk of this outing me as someone with a case of sour grapes, I should acknowledge that I am listed as an Associate Investigator on a grant application that was not successful. Yes, I am disappointed. But this certainly was not the only diabetes grant that was unsuccessful. Many other very worthwhile applications faced a similar fate.

Congratulations to all the successful applicants.

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