An alliance of Australia’s leading health and development institutions has applauded the Australian Government’s $620 million boost for health systems in the Pacific and Southeast Asia, announced yesterday.
The Health Expert Advisory Committee* said the Partnerships for a Healthy Region program respected the inextricable link between Australia and its neighbours and would unlock social and economic growth.
The Committee also welcomed the focus on strengthening health systems, non-communicable diseases, sexual and reproductive health and rights, gender equity and First Nations engagement.
The Committee members all have in-country experience and deep connections with local NGOs and health institutions. These will be leveraged to ensure this investment is responsive to local needs and delivers at the local level.
In 2022, ACFID and The Fred Hollows Foundation commissioned two important pieces of research which provided the evidence informing the HEAC’s recommendations to the Australian Government:
- Health security in the Pacific: expert perspectives to guide health system strengthening.
- Investing in our future: Building strong and resilient health systems in the Indo-Pacific Region.
Some messages on the boost:
“Many ACFID NGOs and their partners are already operating health programs in the region, we urge the Government to ensure funding is delivered via existing non-governmental and faith-based organisations and networks, ensuring it is used most effectively. ACFID would also like to see these groups feature prominently in the program design and delivery.
“Post-pandemic, there is an urgent need to bolster primary and community health, through increasing the number of trained nurses, community health workers and invest in health hubs at a community level.
“Australia needs to help partners’ health systems reach the poorest people, not just focus on medical capacity in capital cities.
“We will be calling on the government to undertake an inclusive process for the design, consultation, implementation and evaluation of these important investments.”
- ACFID CEO Marc Purcell
“Eye health is impacted by both communicable diseases like trachoma and non-communicable diseases like cataract and diabetes. The Fred Hollows Foundation is therefore very pleased to see that this regional health partnership has the scope for both. The people of the region are looking for health security that is holistic, particularly after the damage the pandemic wreaked on their health systems.
“This is a comprehensive package that reflects many of the recent policy and funding recommendations made by Australia’s leading international health organisations. We look forward to working with the Australian Government to provide health interventions that support the needs of our region and deliver impact.”
-The Fred Hollows Foundation CEO Ian Wishart
“This is a desperately needed and very welcome investment in the health of our neighbours who have been so impacted by the pandemic. But it is also an investment in our collective health; the pandemic laid bare just how interconnected we are.
“COVID-19 has set back years of progress in the fight against the big three diseases – HIV, TB and malaria – but we’re also seeing a sharp decline in childhood vaccination coverage and an increase in undiagnosed and untreated chronic disease across the region. This package will not only work to make up for lost ground, but support health systems in our neighbouring countries to be better prepared to prevent and respond to future threats.”
-Burnet Institute Director and CEO, and Chair of the Australian Global Health Alliance Professor Brendan Crabb AC
“The George Institute for Global health welcomes the Australian Government’s commitment to strengthening national health systems in our region, and in particular the focus on the prevention and control of the region’s biggest killers – non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
“The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed gaps in continuity of care for NCDs across the region, highlighting the critical importance of strong, community-based primary health care systems that not only effectively and equitably address NCDs but are resilient in a time of crisis.”
-The George Institute for Global Health CEO Professor Anushka Patel
“Interplast Australia & New Zealand welcomes the announcement by the Australian Government of $620 million to strengthen health systems throughout the Asia Pacific region. Since the emergence of COVID-19 as a global pandemic, our partners in the region need us more than ever, and this announcement delivers essential assistance to areas of great need.
“This package allows for everyone to step-up and continue the life-changing and life-saving work that Australian NGOs are so highly respected for within the region. We look forward to working with the Australian Government to build upon our last 40 years of health system strengthening, building for a better tomorrow.”
-Interplast Australia & New Zealand CEO Cameron Glover
“We congratulate Minister Wong and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on the announcement of the Partnerships for a Healthy Region initiative. The initiative recognises the need to work with our neighbours to strengthen health services, like routine childhood immunisations, to place children and adolescents at the centre of sustainable development."
“WHO and UNICEF data shows that global childhood vaccination coverage continued to decline in 2021, with 25 million infants missing out on lifesaving vaccines for measles and diphtheria. We believe that the Partnerships initiative will help to reverse this trend in our region, and we applaud DFAT for their leadership in this effort.”
-Murdoch Children’s Research Institute Infection and Immunity Theme Director Professor Andrew Steer
“Congratulations to Minister Wong and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on the announcement of this investment in the health of populations in our region with a focus on re-building essential services like vaccination that have been disrupted through the pandemic, better preparedness for future outbreaks and building a strong health workforce with priority on partnerships and equity.”
-Associate Professor Meru Sheel, Sydney Infectious Diseases Institute, the University of Sydney
*Health Expert Advisory Committee members and spokespersons:
Australia Council for International Development (ACFID) – CEO Marc Purcell
The Fred Hollows Foundation – CEO Ian Wishart
Australian Global Health Alliance – Chair, Professor Brendan Crabb AC
Burnet Institute – Director and CEO Professor Brendan Crabb AC
The George Institute for Global Health – CEO, Professor Anushka Patel
Nossal Institute for Global Health – Director, Professor Barbara McPake
Murdoch Children’s Research Institute – Infection and Immunity Theme Director, Professor Andrew Steer
Royal Australasian College of Surgeons – CEO, John Biviano
Interplast Australia & New Zealand – CEO, Cameron Glover
Sydney Infectious Diseases Institute, the University of Sydney – Associate Professor Meru Sheel