This Working Paper on Better Health is one of a series of 10 papers published alongside DFID's Research Strategy 2008-2013. It presents the case for DFID-funded research on Better Health - drawing on the responses given during a global consultation that DFID convened in 2007 about its future research.
The current DFID health strategy underlines the importance of generating new knowledge to deliver health services more effectively and efficiently and supporting scientific breakthroughs to provide new medicines and vaccines for tropical diseases and HIV and AIDS. In 2006-2007 DFID invested around £45 million in health research, over 40% of the entire central research budget. By 2010 this is set to double, making DFID one of the largest donors in international health research. DFID funds research directly, supports multilateral organisations and international initiatives, and works jointly with the UK Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust and other partners.
Overall, the responses to the consultation process suggest that DFID is broadly on the right track with its current health research portfolio. A key message is that DFID should continue to remain focused by restricting the scope of research to a few carefully selected and well defined areas and evaluating success in terms of the practical impact of research on policy and practice in poor countries. Yet major challenges to meeting the three health MDGs remain, necessitating improvements.
Over the next five years, DFID will therefore target its health research investments to unlock and accelerate progress towards the health MDGs - placing a special emphasis on exploiting the linkages between different health challenges. While maternal and child health, HIV, TB and malaria and gender will continue remain central to DFID research, the new strategy will include a new emphasis on non-communicable diseases. This is in recognition that the burden of ill health is changing rapidly, with developing countries increasingly facing a double burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases.
DFID will also prioritise and co-ordinate better with others in supporting global health innovation, and deepen and apply its knowledge and expertise about the environments where health technologies and interventions are delivered, in order to help maximise the uptake of technology, whether existing or new.
Three interlinked and mutually-reinforcing priority areas have been identified for refocusing DFID investments in health research to achieve the MDGs: Operational and implementation research to make interventions more effective; Health systems; and Global health innovation systems. Additionally, and as part of a systems approach to health, DFID will focus on building health research capacity, especially in Africa.
DFID, London, UK, 20 pp.