In May 2010, Grand Challenges Canada (GCC) was launched with the mandate to identify global challenges in health that could be supported through the Government of Canada's Development Innovations Fund (DIF: $225 million over five years). The GCC offers a potentially excellent mechanism for taking Canada's participation in global health challenges "to a higher level". Recent GCC announcements raise new questions about the emphasis being placed on technological discovery or "catalytic" research. 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. The Canadian Grand Challenges announced to date risk pushing to the sidelines good translational and implementation science and early career-stage scientists addressing important social, environmental and political conditions that affect disease prevalence, progress and treatment; and the many unresolved challenges faced in bringing to scale proven interventions within resource-constrained health systems. We wish to register our concern at the apparent prioritization of biotechnical innovation research and the subordination of the social, environmental, economic and political context in which human health is either protected or eroded.
Comment In: Can J Public Health. 2011 Jul-Aug;102(4):29321913586