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Australian health investment package will build a stronger, more resilient Asia-Pacific

The Australian Global Health Alliance and Pacific Friends of Global Health have strongly endorsed Australia’s renewed effort to help build resilient and equitable health systems in the Pacific and Southeast Asia. 

Under a five-year, $620 million package known as Partnerships for a Healthy Region, Australia will seek to help restore health gains lost through the pandemic. Drawing on Australian expertise and long-term relationships in the region, it aims to better support nations across the Pacific and Southeast Asia to anticipate and control communicable diseases, prevent non-communicable diseases, advance sexual and reproductive health and rights, and build stronger, more equitable, national health systems.

The bulk of the funding ($350 million) is allocated to communicable diseases and will fund programs for immunisation, infection control, disease surveillance and antimicrobial resistance.  The remainder will expand Australia’s assistance to tackle non-communicable diseases – the number one cause of death worldwide – via funding for health promotion campaigns in areas such as alcohol, tobacco control and mental health, as well as screening for conditions such as cervical cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

Australian Global Health Alliance and Pacific Friends of Global Health Chair, Professor Brendan Crabb AC, said the focus of the initiative was refreshing and innovative.

“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.” ” Professor Crabb said.

“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.

“The expanded focus on non-communicable diseases and strengthening health systems in this package is very welcome. A community with a lighter burden of alcohol and tobacco-related disease, obesity or mental health problems is far better equipped to also ward off communicable diseases. Investments in prevention and knowledge create a virtuous circle. 

“It is also very refreshing to see the Australian government emphasise the importance of partnership and collaboration. Ultimately, local communities are the greatest source of wisdom when it comes to health challenges. Working from the grassroots is the best way to effect lasting change.

“This package is a big step forward, especially in its explicit recognition that supporting gender equality, disability inclusion, First Nations engagement and addressing the health impacts of climate change will be crucial to success… We look forward to working with the Australian Government in its quest to build a healthier region.” 

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