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Underinvestment in nutrition research for at-risk populations: An analysis of research funding awarded in Australia from 2014 to 2021
journal contributionposted on 2022-10-27, 04:42 authored by Laura AlstonLaura Alston, R Raeside, S S Jia, S R Partridge
Aim: To determine the proportion of research projects funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council and Australian Research Council research funding from 2014 to 2021 that aimed to understand or improve dietary behaviours for at-risk populations in Australia and estimate the proportion of total funding allocated during this period. Methods: Retrospective analysis of the publicly available National Health and Medical Research Council and Australian Research Council funding grants over the 8 years from 2014 to 2021 (n = 18 098). At-risk dietary populations included people living in rural and remote Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, or people living in socioeconomically disadvantaged areas. Descriptive analysis was undertaken. Results: In total, 144 out of 18 098 (0.8%) individual grants totalling $96.8 million were identified relating to nutrition research from 2014 to 2021. Out of the 144, only 21 ($19.6 million; 0.1%) of all National Health and Medical Research Council grants were identified for nutritionally at-risk populations, with the majority focused on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (15/21). The National Health and Medical Research Council and Australian Research Council grants that aimed to improve human dietary behaviours increased by 0.66% and 0.58%, respectively, from 2014 to 2021. However, the National Health and Medical Research Council grants aiming to improve nutritional behaviours in at-risk populations decreased by 0.04% over the 8 years. Conclusions: Despite slight increases in the proportions of funding to improve dietary behaviours over the past decade, nutrition research specifically targeting at-risk groups is scarce and appears to have decreased over time. Insufficient investment in research for these groups presents a risk for widening health disparities now and into the future. As such, they must be further supported and considered in the design of future funding schemes.