Health scientists play a vital role in the health system and economy of nations. They contribute evidence for disease control and elimination; they participate in the creation of ethical and evidence-based policies, and they enhance national technical capacity. The evidence health scientists generate is utilized to improve health and health equity at all levels of the health system. The huge disease burden they prevent confers substantial economic gains through increased productivity from a healthy population and savings on national health expenditure.
Unfortunately, as many of us know firsthand, research capacity in disease-endemic countries remains one of the biggest unmet challenges. In sub-Saharan Africa for example, health research in most countries has an allocation of less than 0.5% of national health budgets (only Malawi, Uganda and South Africa spend more than 1% of their GDP on R&D). Worldwide, the Council on Health Research for Development estimates that 98% of health R&D expenditures are made in high income countries, and that only 25% of research on neglected diseases is done in developing countries. (WHO. 2004) (COHRED Global Forum for Health Research. 2012 Report). This discussion examines the current status, challenges and prospects of opportunities for endemic country scientists.