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There was a powerful commentary in the April/May 2011 issue of the Canadian Journal of Public Health by some of Canada's leading global health researchers which is deserving of wider attention. The authors critique the Canadian Grand Challenges(CGC) program, a new and important funding source for Canadians doing international health research. The focus of the CGC funding to date has been technology and biotechnology.

Below I are two excerpts from the commentary:

Missing so far are opportunities that the Fund could offer in order to support innovative research addressing i) health systems strengthening, ii) more effective delivery of existing interventions, ... and iii) policies and programs that address broader social determinants of health.”

“…of the 8 million deaths per year in children under five years of age, perhaps between 1 and 2 million could potentially be influenced favourably by new discoveries in vaccines, drugs or innovative technologies. …However, none of these discoveries will result in significant numbers of lives saved without a much improved, evidence-based understanding of how they can be developed, delivered and sustained in resource-constrained settings in order to reach those in greatest need; or what policies (national and international) might reduce such resource constraints. For the remaining 6 million early childhood deaths per year, affordable, applicable interventions currently exist. For example, global scaleup of promotion and support of optimal infant feeding practices alone could prevent one in five (19%) of these deaths, and immunization, mainstreaming micronutrient supplementation, fortification and other community-based nutrition interventions already offer powerful solutions to the challenge of global health and malnutrition. These and other such solutions have in many cases been known and available for several decades or, in the case of sanitation, for over a century.”

A scan of the titles of research most recently co-supported by the CGC shows there is brilliant, innovative research being funded, but unfortunately only two, maybe three, of the 19 research projects will help to fill the three gaps noted in the first quote, above.