What are the Next Big Interdisciplinary Research Questions for Health Philanthropy?

In 2000, the Washington, D.C.-based Center for the Advancement of Health, established a Funder's Collaborative and a Leadership Group to examine the unique role of philanthropy in funding interdisciplinary research to improve health outcomes.

The Center established two groups:

  • The Funder's Collaborative included representatives from 14 private foundations and voluntary health organizations.
  • The Leadership Group consisted of distinguished senior scientists in genetics, biology, neuroscience, clinical medicine, health policy, economics, psychology, public health and political science.

Key Results

In the report, Investing in Research to Improve Health: A Strategic Direction for Philanthropy, the Center recommended the following:

  • Identify key questions and issues that make a difference in what private funders do to produce health.
  • Initiate and sustain integrative research efforts to address specific health questions.
  • Contribute to improvements in the research environment by:
    • Supporting assessments of alternative institutional models for promoting, sustaining and rewarding integrative research.
    • Providing leadership to educate research institutions and other public and private funders about integrative and problem-oriented research.
  • Work to modify the policy environment by strengthening the capacity to collect, analyze and synthesize data on the burden of illness and disability.
  • Create new training approaches.
  • Help reshape the culture of research by:
    • Commissioning studies that document the contributions of integrative, problem-focused research.
    • Educating scientists, policy-makers, practitioners and consumers about the potential benefits of changes in the scientific establishment.
    • Working with professional societies to increase the value and visibility of interdisciplinary research.