National action needed to fast-track life-saving discoveries and to ensure that all healthcare is evidence based

Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences (AAHMS)
  • Cancer survival rates, COVID response and rapid vaccine development show how research can rapidly transform healthcare outcomes
  • But Australia is not currently translating the findings of research efficiently into benefits for patients because of fragmentation within the health system and between health, academia and industry.
  • Report reveals how integrating routine clinical care with generation of evidence represents our best pathway to deliver better patient experiences, improve patient outcomes, and increase staff satisfaction.

Australia’s health and medical science leaders have released a comprehensive plan to transform healthcare by better integrating research and health.

The report, Research and innovation as core functions in transforming the health system: a vision for the future of health in Australia, released today by the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences says that implementation of this plan could lead to a revolution in how we treat many diseases, saving lives and saving dollars.

“Our 2013 Strategic Review of Health and Medical Research explored how Australia could use research to improve health,” says Mr Simon McKeon, AO.

“Nearly 10 years on, there is still more to be done. Research and innovation are more important than ever, and rapid translation of research outcomes into patient care can save lives. The Academy’s report sets out how Australia can better embed research and innovation at the heart of our health system – by doing so, we can deliver the best and most efficient evidence-based care for the Australian community.”

Professor Christina Mitchell, Professor Ian Frazer, Professor Ingrid Scheffer and others available for interview.

Full report at

In the past two decades we’ve seen transformations in health. Metastatic melanoma for example is no longer an automatic death sentence. Breast cancer survival rates have improved from 73 per cent to 91 per cent in Australia over twenty years. We’ve brought HIV under control in Australia, turning it into a chronic disease.

Australia’s COVID response has shown how researchers and clinicians can mobilise to work with government and community to meet national needs and inform rapid decision making.

The rapid development of COVID vaccines has saved thousands of lives in Australia and many millions around the world.

Underpinning these and many other achievements has been the rapid translation of health research from the laboratory to patient care and policy.

And we are on the cusp of understanding many other issues such as autoimmune disease, dementia, and the factors that drive health inequity from birth.

And yet, it has been estimated that on average only 60 per cent of healthcare aligns with evidence or consensus-based guidelines. 30 per cent is comprised of some form of waste or is of low value and, alarmingly, 10 per cent is associated with harm.

Much of the health budget is consumed by managing health issues that we should be able to cure or prevent.

“We know from international evidence that health systems that foster close collaboration between research and patient care deliver better patient experiences, improve patient outcomes, and increase staff satisfaction,” says Professor Christina Mitchell, Executive Dean, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences at Monash University and chair of the AAHMS working group that has developed the report, Research and innovation as core functions in transforming the health system.

Working with more than 260 health leaders, consumers and individuals from government, research funders and industry, the AAHMS has outlined a three-year plan to:

  • Address fragmentation by creating a new alliance for transforming healthcare through research.
  • Build a skilled and enabled health research workforce, including a cohort of world-class clinician researchers.
  • Maximise the value of current investments in research and innovation.
  • Foster stronger consumer and community involvement in research and innovation
  • Build integrated teams and cross-sector collaboration.

“We have developed a suite of recommendations, designed to fit within and improve on our existing health and research frameworks. Most of the recommendations will improve health by making the best use of today’s investment in health research to create a sustainable health system,” Professor Mitchell says.

“We are currently briefing state and federal policymakers and health sector leaders on our three- year plan and how it can be implemented,” she says.

“In my field of neuroscience the seminal advances over the last decade, underpinned by the genomics revolution and improved imaging, have transformed our understanding of brain diseases,” says Professor Ingrid Scheffer, President of the Academy.

“The challenge before us now is to ensure rapid implementation of life-changing treatments globally – to efficiently integrate new evidence into healthcare to improve health outcomes for all.”

Media contacts

Niall Byrne,, 0417-131-977

Margaret de Silva, AAHMS Communication and Media Manager,, 0492-934-845.

Full report at
Additional comments below.

Supporting information

A vision for better health outcomes through embedded research

Research saves lives. Australia needs to embed research and innovation at the heart of our health system to improve outcomes for the Australian community and future-proof a system that delivers cutting-edge care.

The Academy’s report, Research and innovation as core functions in transforming the health system: a vision for the future of health in Australia outlines how we can make these improvements.

Read on for examples of how research can transform health outcomes.

Pandemics and pneumonia

In 2009, Professor Steve Webb and his colleagues struggled to treat very sick swine flu patients. “We realised that we needed better tools for future pandemics. That led to a global project to fast-track pneumonia treatments. In response to COVID it rapidly scaled up and guided clinicians worldwide on the best treatments for critically ill patients. Over 300 hospitals have contributed, with 57 treatment comparisons evaluated.

“We’ve shown what’s possible by integrating research and intensive care practice. Recruitment into the trial occurs 24/7 and can be done easily by bedside clinicians. Integrating routine clinical care with generation of evidence represents our best pathway to improving patient outcomes by making healthcare more ‘evidence-based.’

“This type of design can give us evidence on new treatments, faster and at lower cost, for many different diseases”

Vaccines and immunology

After decades of research to unravel the complexities of our immune defences, we now have the knowledge to program our immune system to prevent and to eradicate infections. Professor Ian Frazer, the co-inventor of the cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil, was the founding President of AAHMS and a participant in the working group for the Vision project.

“It took 15 years to take Gardasil from a concept to the clinic. By comparison, the global response to COVID gave the world a dozen vaccines in less than a year, including the first mRNA vaccines. Now Australian doctors and scientists are researching mRNA and other novel technologies to reprogram our immune system to deliver personalised medicines for cancer and for chronic disorders including autoimmune arthritis and diabetes.”

About the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences

The Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences is the impartial, authoritative, cross-sector voice of health and medical science in Australia. We advance health and medical research in Australia and its translation into benefits for all, by fostering leadership within our sector, providing expert advice to decision makers, and engaging patients and the public.

We are an independent, interdisciplinary body of Fellows – elected by their peers for their outstanding achievements and exceptional contributions to health and medical science in Australia. Collectively, they are a representative and independent voice, through which we engage with the community, industry, and governments.

The Academy is uniquely positioned to convene cross-sector stakeholders from across Australia to address the most pressing health challenges facing society. We focus on the development of future generations of health and medical researchers, on providing independent advice to government, and on providing a forum for discussion on progress in health and medical research with an emphasis on translation of research into practice.

The Academy is registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) and is endorsed as a deductible gift recipient.

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