Regional efforts to combat tuberculosis (TB) have been bolstered with a new research grant that will help minimise the spread of infectious disease in the Indo-Pacific.
The Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine at James Cook University (JCU) has been awarded a $1.8M research grant to work towards building tropical partnerships and strengthening health system responses to infectious disease in the Indo-Pacific.
This major tropical disease research initiative, announced by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Julie Bishop MP, and funded through the Department of Foreign Affairs Trade’s newly announced Indo-Pacific Centre for Health Security, will respond to infectious diseases such as Zika and TB in the region and strengthen local-level capacity to undertake surveillance and respond to emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases.
Led by Professor Emma McBryde, a world leading TB clinician and researcher, the partnership includes a team of experienced and multidisciplinary researchers at JCU, other Australian universities, and regional partners in the Indo-Pacific region.
Together, the research team will provide expertise and build capacity in Indo-Pacific countries for risk reduction and management of health risks that help the countries meet their International Health Regulation and national health security requirements in surveillance and response, laboratory capacity, planning and governance to prevent disease threats.
“One major element of this grant is that we will work with partners in Papua New Guinea (PNG) to strengthen local capacity to detect, treat and prevent cases of TB, map the public health systems activities and help them to address any gaps with regard to the International Health Regulation requirements,” Professor McBryde said.
This project aims to provide the Indo-Pacific region with a stronger health system surveillance and response capacity to support timely, effective responses to emerging and existing infectious disease threats.
“The project will deliver a consortium of institutes in Australia and the Indo-Pacific region that can provide innovative tools for policy evaluation and decision support, research mentorship, workforce development, continual quality improvement and mutual learning.
“Using modelling techniques, we’ll be able to identify the risk of endemic spread or cross-border infection, this data will then inform the best ways to address TB on a country-specific basis.
“We’ll also provide enhanced Zika surveillance and responses in the Solomon Islands and identify control activities to avoid the rapid and devastating impacts of these emerging infectious diseases,” Professor McBryde said.
Australia’s Ambassador for Regional Health Security, Blair Exell said that this project was a demonstration of Australia’s commitment to improve health security in the Indo-Pacific.
“Collaborations and partnerships such as this are essential in delivering health security in our region.
“Well supported research will strengthen health systems and capacities in our region to mitigate and manage infectious disease threats”, Mr Exell said.
AITHM Director, Professor Louis Schofield said that this grant supports AITHM’s role in tackling some of the world’s biggest health challenges facing the Tropics.
“Australia’s northern borders are highly susceptible to infectious diseases such as Zika and TB, and they pose a huge burden on Tropical regions, including Australia’s near neighbours.
“AITHM is on the front foot in the face of these threats and this grant builds on AITHM’s reputation for leadership in the field of Tropical health and medicine,” Professor Schofield said.
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Laura Males – 0429 959 464
AITHM - Communications Coordinator