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Health Research Overlooked?

There is much to commend in “Now or Never: An Urgent Call to Action,” but the commission on the new economy did not mention health research.

That’s unfortunate because it is a compelling story. All Nova Scotians should hear about an industry that brings into Nova Scotia over $80 million a year, develops and exports new commercializable products and services, attracts immigrants to, and retains students in the province, improves the productivity of thousands across the province, and contains costs in the sector of our province that is gobbling up almost half of our government expenditures.

Health research in Nova Scotia is a partnership between the health system and the university system and is supported by health-related businesses, the Nova Scotia Health Research Foundation and federal agencies such as Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The generosity of donors to the IWK Foundation and the QE II Foundation is also critical.

Nova Scotia’s health research is creating new businesses such as:

• Halifax Biomedical, based in Mabou, Cape Breton, which is the world leader in devices to measure stability of orthopedic implants and is supported by research at Capital Health/Dalhousie University

• Immunovaccine, which has licensed several products from its patented DepoVax™ vaccine adjuvanting platform and is now listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange. It was developed from research at Dalhousie.

• Strongest Families Institute, which will deliver mental health services to over 2,000 families across Canada this year from Halifax and won the Manning Award as the best innovation in Canada in 2013. It was developed from research at the IWK and Dalhousie.

• Mindful Scientific, which is developing its Halifax Consciousness Scanner to assess concussion and other disorders of consciousness. It emerged from research at IWK and Dalhousie.

Nova Scotia health research attracts and retains outstanding clinicians to Nova Scotia who deliver excellent care in our health system.

The opportunity to engage in health research is a major draw for many highly qualified clinicians. Other industries will not locate in Nova Scotia without a strong health system. Trainees come to Nova Scotia to work with our scientists and many will stay as we develop opportunities for them.

Health research improves the health and productivity of Nova Scotians.

The fisher in Yarmouth whose atrial fibrillation is better treated in his or her own community because of research at the QE II Health Sciences Centre, and the family whose child is able to overcome problems and attend daycare in Cape Breton because of research at the IWK Health Centre are two examples.

Thousands of Nova Scotians benefit from heath research done at our hospitals and universities.

Health research in Nova Scotia can help contain spiralling health costs and export these solutions across Canada and to other countries.

Health research in Nova Scotia encourages entrepreneurship and innovation, develops products and services to export to other regions in Canada and around the world, improves health care systems and delivery, discovers strategies to contain increasing health costs, provides interesting and rewarding jobs, and attracts new people to our communities.

Health research is a vibrant and thriving part of Nova Scotia’s new economy, a vital part of making a difference and coming up with solutions in Nova Scotia. Let’s make sure we all make it grow.

Patrick McGrath is the Integrated VP, Research and Innovation, at Capital Health and at the IWK Health Centre, professor at Dalhousie University and founder and volunteer CEO of the not-for-profit Strongest Families Institute. The opinions expressed are his own and may not represent those of the IWK, Capital Health, Dalhousie or the Strongest Families Institute.