If the amount allocated for health research — just Rs 4,500 crores — during the eleventh plan, is very low, many funding bodies like the ICMR, DBT, CSIR have been spending the meagre resources on duplicating the research. Apart from duplication, there is redundancy, lack of co-ordination and direction.
The creation of a Department of Health Research in 2007 within the Ministry of Health helped the ICMR to have a coherent research policy. The new department created also sent out a loud and clear message that research would play an important role in the country's health policies and programmes.
Now a National Health Research Policy has been drafted based on ICMR's Health Research Policy. The National Health Research Policy would, among other things, help in chalking out the priority areas where research has to be done. This will then help the various nodal funding bodies to take up relevant research and avoid any duplication.
The National Health Research Policy will be able to maximise returns on investment in health research by having in place a system that will prioritize, co-ordinate, facilitate conduct of effective and ethical health research and its translation into products, policies and programmes aimed at improving health, especially of the vulnerable population.
The National Health Research Policy has not been finalised, and Open Houses are being conducted in the four metros to hear the views of the public. The first Open House was held in Mumbai on August 23.
The next one will be in Chennai on October 4 at the Tuberculosis Research Centre (2 pm at the Robert Koch Auditorium).
Kolkatta will be the next venue (November 15) and finally, Delhi.