By Joseph Erunke
ABUJA–THE Director General and Chief Executive Officer of Nigerian Institute of Medical Research,NIMR, Prof. Babatunde Salako,has advised the federal government to as a matter of urgency, establish a Medical Research Council for the country as obtainable in the United States of America and the United Kingdom.
He said establishment of the health research funding body would give Nigeria opportunity to provide local solutions through funding of peculiar health challenges in the country.
Salako,who said most modern successful countries have functional research and development anchored by a health research funding agency, insisted that it was time for Nigeria to have a strong health research funding body too.
He said the reason the health indices in the country were poor was because of inadequate funding for health research and for the health system itself.
Speaking Wednesday,in Abuja,at a meeting organised by the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research with the objective to deliberate on the feasibility and acceptability as well as organs and functionality of Medical Research Council for Nigeria,Prof. Salako noted that the establishment of the health research council would provide innovation, solution,more development and new programme and opportunities that will improve health indices in the country.
To this end,he said:”We feel or we believe that the best thing that will happen to Nigeria is for Nigeria to create its own Medical Research Council, which first function will be to fund health research, specifically for all health research or researchers in the country from universities to research institutes and other institutions.”
He said:”In most modern successful countries,they have functional research and development which is anchored by a health research funding agency and I give an example of the National Institute of Health in the United States and the Medical Research Council in the United Kingdom. Both of them essentially do the same work.
“For most African countries, only a few do have these kind of bodies -providing funding, specific funding for health research.
“For us in Nigeria, research has not been adequately funded even though government funds research through TETFund. TETFund is restricted to tertiary institutions alone,the universities to be specific and it covers all forms of research-health research, engineering, agriculture…. But the examples I have given are specific for health, because research in health has been shown to contribute most to human development in terms of ensuring higher life expectancy, good health indices and maternal mortality and all of that.
“We know very well that these indices are poor in Nigeria and the more reason that we can attribute to it is inadequate funding for health research and for the health system itself.
” Health research provides innovation, solution,more development and new programme and opportunities that will improve these indices.
“So,we feel or we believe that the best thing that will happen to Nigeria is for Nigeria to create its own Medical Research Council, which first function will be to fund health research, specifically for all health research or researchers in the country from universities to research institutes and other institutions. And if this happens,we will be able to provide local solutions through funding of peculiar health challenges in Nigeria to be able to solve those problems.
“We might be able to develop our own drugs. We have a lot of traditional medicines that people brandish around. Some of them may work but we can only prove that through research. Of course, like I said, research can provide new knowledge and new evidence,more importantlyr for the decision makers.”
According to him,”Research can provide policy that will have significant impact for our health system and national development.”
He spoke further:”Research can also be seen as a business,this is to really attract private partitioners, business people, who don’t realize that research is key in what they do. In that way,if we follow research and development drug,that drug will fetch the company money,the developers money,and so, research should be seen as business and private partitioners are also encouraged to form research.
“We need a body that will coordinate this body and the tradition is that the country will either have a medical research council or a National Institute of Health like they have in the United States.
“The Medical Research Council should be funded by government.Everywhere in the world,it is funded by government. Medical Research Council get their funding either by the National Assembly or from the Presidency, because it is seen as a major tool in improving the standard of the country’s health. If the country is well,then you have a good,healthy workforce.”
Salako noted that,”If research is ongoing,then you can develop solution to a peculiar problem.”
“You can develop your vaccines, you can develop your own drugs and you can come up with new approaches to treatments and this will impact on national development and business environment. So, it is something that the nation has to take very serious.
” And the funding we are proposing should come from an already structured funding in the National Health Act where we have a provision for the health itself, covering Healthcare Provision Fund.In this fund, it’s been established that about one percent of that will be for health research,”he added.
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