Elevating Australia’s global health leadership: a path to equity and security


In an increasingly interconnected world, global health investment and partnership stand as a cornerstone for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and addressing the pressing health challenges that transcend borders. As nations strive to meet the global commitment of leaving no one behind, Australia’s role in global health becomes vital. However, Australia’s engagement in global health research has been observed to be relatively limited compared to other leading countries. Reflecting on this shortcoming, the Australian Global Alliance submitted a Hansard in 2022, where Australia’s current level of engagement in global health research and funding was examined. Although Australia has made commendable strides in funding global health projects within the Pacific region, its overall investment and participation in international health initiatives appear less pronounced when compared to countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) region, such as Canada, the United Kingdom, and others.

Unlike Australia’s counterparts, which have established dedicated global health research funding mechanisms and organisations, Australia’s efforts in this domain lack the same level of prominence. For example, the Australian Medical Research Future Funds (MRFF) contributes to global health projects with a modest annual budget ($30 million over ten years), which will only support limited global health projects. Therefore, Australia may consider broadening investment to researcher-initiated global health research. This approach ensures that resources are allocated to important health challenges such as maternal and child health, non-communicable diseases, mental health, and access to healthcare services in resource-limited settings and that Australia has the expertise to lead the research. Consequently, this will allow Australia to contribute to building a resilient global health network, which aligns with Australia’s aspiration for global wellbeing. Australian global health research funding could potentially enhance the country’s ability to actively contribute to tackling complex health challenges that transcend national borders.

COVID-19 has been an immediate global health crisis that taught us lessons on strengthening capacity in global health. Australia can tap into a wealth of knowledge, expertise, and resources by fostering collaborations with a wider set of countries, organisations, and institutions. A strong network will possess enhanced capabilities to address emerging health threats promptly and efficiently. Moreover, as a nation situated in the Asia-Pacific region, Australia has a unique opportunity to forge stronger regional alliances in global health. By directing resources and research efforts towards countries in Asia and Africa, Australia can build long-lasting partnerships and work collaboratively towards common health goals. This approach would benefit neighbouring countries and enhance Australia’s standing as a global health champion, fostering a spirit of shared responsibility in tackling health challenges.

With its robust economy, advanced healthcare infrastructure, and unwavering commitment to humanitarian values, Australia has the capacity and responsibility to make a meaningful impact on the global health landscape. One of the paramount motivations for Australia to invest in global health projects lies in the urgent need to address glaring global health disparities. Countless individuals across low- and middle-income countries suffer from inadequate access to essential healthcare services, which was apparent that resource-limited countries struggled with their capacity to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. By allocating resources and expertise to these regions, Australia can play a pivotal role in reducing these disparities and fostering health equity worldwide. Concurrently, Australia must prioritise enhancing healthcare for Aboriginal Australians, promoting equity, and acknowledging the Indigenous Voice to Parliament in shaping policies for their well-being, aligning with inclusive decision-making commitments. This comprehensive approach aligns with the nation’s moral compass and promotes social stability in the region and on a global scale.

Furthermore, the imperative of health security and disease control stands as a compelling reason for Australia’s active engagement in global health endeavours. In our intricately linked world, health challenges like pandemics and infectious diseases effortlessly cross borders, emphasising the urgency of global health security. By investing in preventive measures, Australia shields its citizens from potential outbreaks and portrays itself as a responsible global actor. Additionally, investing in global health projects empowers Australia to address emerging health threats proactively. Through research and surveillance, Australia aids in early risk detection, promoting global readiness and unity toward safeguarding humanity. Australia’s investment in global health alleviates migration challenges by improving healthcare in source-limited countries and saving lives, fostering unity among nations and strengthening disaster response and aid capabilities. Additionally, it contributes to economic growth, advances scientific research, and enhances healthcare practices worldwide, building collective resilience and bolstering international relations.

Australia’s global health efforts, particularly in research support, lag behind those of similar countries. This limited funding could hinder Australia’s impact on cross-border health challenges, missing collaboration and expertise exchange opportunities. By broadening project scopes, fostering alliances in the Asia-Pacific region, and strengthening international partnerships, Australia can better position itself as a global health leader, effectively responding to emerging health threats.


About the Authors: Dr Zohra Lassi (PhD) is a trained epidemiologist recognised for her work identifying interventions for improving reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent health and nutrition in disadvantaged settings by advancing knowledge in public health practice and translation into global health policies and guidelines. She is an Associate Professor and NHMRC Emerging Leader-2 (EL2) Fellow at the Robinson Research Institute and the School of Public Health of the University of Adelaide, South Australia, Australia.

Dr Gizachew Tessema (PhD) is an epidemiologist and health services researcher conducting research focusing on maternal and child health and global health. He is a senior lecturer and NHMRC Emerging Leader-1 (EL1) Fellow at Curtin School of Population Health, Curtin University, Western Australia, Australia.

Prof Gavin Pereira (PhD) is an epidemiologist, NHMRC Emerging Leader-2 (EL2) Fellow and Dean of Research in the Faculty of Health Sciences, Curtin University, Western Australia, Australia

Competing Interest: None

Handling Editor: Neha Faruqui

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