Ministry of Health launches $9 million COVID-19 research fund

Ministry of Health launches $9 million COVID-19 research fund

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Following Health Minister Andrew Little’s announcement yesterday, the Ministry of Health is gearing up to consider applications for the newly available funding to support research into future pandemic responses, as well as the ongoing impacts of COVID-19.  

Dr Ian Town, the Ministry of Health’s Chief Science Advisor, says this research is needed to learn from New Zealand’s response to COVID-19, and take key lessons forward to improve our nation’s resilience in the event we’re confronted with another pandemic in the future. 

“We need to understand better how our communities and whānau have experienced and dealt with COVID-19 and the response,” says Dr Town.  

“The funding is for investigator-initiated projects that will address gaps in our knowledge about the impacts of the pandemic.

“We are particularly interested in research that will help the Ministry improve its support for Māori, Pacific and disabled people and communities.

“In relation to the vaccination programme, what can we do to ensure more equitable access to and greater uptake of vaccines in the future? 

“The pandemic continues to have far-reaching impacts on New Zealand society. We are looking to fund research projects that enable rapid application of national and international evidence to New Zealand,” says Dr Town. 

A Request for Proposals (RFP) will open on 19 April and will close on 10 June 2022. The Ministry is looking to fund projects with terms of up to 12 months up to a maximum value of $500,000 (excluding GST).    

“We’ve designed the process to be straightforward and simple for researchers and research support staff by using proposal templates and assessment criteria that they will be familiar with. We’ll be releasing the Ministry’s Priority Research Themes in mid-April to help guide respondents,” Dr Town says.   

“We have benefitted enormously from the research projects we have already funded and are excited to be able to further strengthen the evidence base for what we do.”  

More details on how New Zealand-based research organisations can apply for this funding are now available on the GETS website . Provider briefings will be held during the week commencing 2 May.

Questions and answers  

What kinds of proposals will be considered? 

Equity will be a key element of any proposal. Broadly, proposals that fall under the following themes will be considered  

For Covid-19 response: 

  • Equitable access to services and interventions 
  • Impact of Covid-19 on Māori/Pacific health and wellbeing 
  • Impact of Covid-19 on our health workforce 
  • Impacts of the digital divide 
  • Intergenerational mobility of impact and outcomes of Covid-19 
  • Long Covid in adults and children 
  • Preventing future pandemics and preparedness 
  • Public health interventions 
  • Impacts of the digital divide 

For Covid-19 vaccines: 

  • Factors affecting equitable access to vaccines 
  • Long term safety of vaccines 
  • Effectiveness of vaccines 
  • Vaccines and cardiac conditions 
  • Vaccines and women’s health 
  • Factors influencing vaccine readiness and uptake including social media and misinformation 
  • The vaccination experience for Māori and Pacific 

This is not an exhaustive list, and additional details re these themes will be made available on 19 April as part of the RFP. 

What type of research will this funding enable? 

  • Research that provides behavioural insights, investigates community and whānau experiences, focuses on benefits of well-designed recovery.  
  • Research that focuses on the impact, access, outcomes, and future role of Covid-19 vaccines in New Zealand 
  • Basic biomedical research, drug discovery studies, pharmaceutical trials, vaccine development, medical device, technological assessment, seroprevalence/infection survey, sentinel surveillance of at-risk populations, national audits death from/with Covid-19, national audit of hospital admissions from/with Covid-19, long term impacts in those with Covid-19 projects are out of scope. 

How much funding is available? 

  • A total of $9million will be made available with a project cap of $500,000 (GST exclusive)
  • $4 million – Covid-19 response fund 
  • $5 million – Covid-19 vaccine implementation programme (now the National Immunisation Programme) 

What is the duration of the fund? 

  • The funding itself is one-off. 
  • Projects will be funded for a duration of up to 12 months. 

 

How will the findings of the research be implemented? 

  • One of the criteria for assessments will be how rapidly the evidence can be translated into practice/interventions in New Zealand and for our under-served communities – particularly Māori, Pacific, and disabled community 
  • Research that is directly able to inform policies, strategic priorities, guidelines/practice will be of particular interest. 

Why is the Ministry commissioning this research round and not the Health Research Council of NZ? 

  • This is a rapid research round to address Ministry’s priorities and knowledge gaps around COVID-19 response and vaccines – priorities and gaps that have been identified over the course of Ministry’s day-to-day response to the pandemic. 

How will equity be prioritised? 

  • Equity will be a stand-alone criterion for assessing applications. It is critical that our research addresses the needs, priorities, and aspirations of our Māori, Pacific, and disabled communities. 
  • We are keen for Kaupapa Māori researchers, Pacific researchers, and researchers that have worked with other underserved communities to submit proposals. We need them to help us strengthen our evidence base and inform our practice/decision-making to reduce inequitable access to and uptake of healthcare services, interventions, and health outcome disparities. 

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