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University of Sydney wins $4.5m in DFAT grants

2 July 2018
Promoting public health in the Asia Pacific region
The University of Sydney has won $4.5m in grants from The Department of Foreign Affairs to lead programs aimed at preventing infectious diseases and antimicrobial resistance in Fiji and Vietnam.

Better water safety and security are vital for improving public health in the Asia-Pacific region

The grants were announced today by Australian Foreign Affairs Minister, the Hon Julie Bishop MP.

Over the next three years, Professor Joel Negin and Associate Professor Gregory Fox will lead multidisciplinary teams to combat the emergence and spread of water-borne and antimicrobial resistant infectious diseases.

Tackling water-borne diseases in Fiji

Together with Edith Cowan University, the Fijian Ministry of Health and Medical Services, the World Health Organization and Fiji National University, University of Sydney public health experts will tackle typhoid, dengue and leptospirosis in Fiji.

University of Sydney co-investigators on the project are Dr Aaron Jenkins, Dr Seye Abimbola, Professor Ben Marais and Dr Jacqui Thomas

Water safety and security, and the retention of critical ecosystem services pose a major challenge to all Pacific Island Countries.
Professor Negin, Head, Sydney School of Public Health

Outbreaks of water-borne diseases are increasingly common in Fiji and are being amplified by changing ecological conditions.

Fiji has experiences 20 typhoid outbreaks since 2005, a 27,000-case outbreak of dengue in 2013-14 and a three-fold increase in leptospirosis cases following tropical cyclone Winston that caused widespread damage in 2016.

“Water safety and security, and the retention of critical ecosystem services pose a major challenge to all Pacific Island Countries,” said Professor Negin, who heads the University of Sydney School of Public Health.

“These interconnected challenges require a health systems response integrated with water management, sanitation, and catchment management.”

The project will develop and test real-time mobile tools to monitor water quality and water-related disease. It will also strengthen village and national level governance and train multi-sectoral rapid response teams.

Antimicrobial resistance in Vietnam

Associate Professor Gregory Fox will lead a team comprising University of Sydney, UNSW, The George Institute for Global Health, the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology and the National Lung Hospital, Hanoi, Vietnam (Vietnam) and the Australian National University to combat antimicrobial resistant infectious diseases in Vietnam.

“Vietnam is a hotspot for the emergence of drug resistant infections, typifying the regional challenges facing health systems in combating antimicrobial resistance,” said Associate Professor Gregory Fox , a respiratory physician, epidemiologist and clinical trialist at Sydney Medical School.

University of Sydney co-investigators on the project are Professor Joel Negin, Professor Jonathan Iredell, Professor Ben Marais and Dr Justin Beardsley.

Vietnam is a hotspot for the emergence of drug resistant infections.
Associate Professor Gregory Fox, Sydney Medical School

Drug resistant tuberculosis and respiratory pathogens are increasingly common, and pose a major threat to health in Vietnam and the region.

Antimicrobial resistant infectious (AMR) diseases are also a top priority for Vietnam, topping its list of priorities in the 2015 Vietnam Global Health Security Roadmap.

“While good progress has been made in strengthening surveillance of drug resistance, very little has been done to reduce the drivers of AMR in local communities – where most health care interactions occur,” said Dr Fox.

“Excessive and inappropriate use of antibiotics remain a major challenge.
Associate Professor Gregory Fox, Sydney Medical School

“Excessive and inappropriate use of antibiotics remain a major challenge.”

The three-year project will execute a program of research to develop and assess the effectiveness of a package of interventions to guide the Vietnamese government in combating the drivers of antimicrobial resistance.

The project will be done in 36 Districts in population of over five million people. 

“These forthcoming collaborations funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade exemplify the University of Sydney’s commitment to research impact, empowering our multidisciplinary researchers to work towards solutions for critical international issues,” said Professor Laurent Rivory, Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research).

“In the case of the Vietnam project, this builds on the work of our affiliated Medical Research Institute, the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research and Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.”

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