Good research can lead to positive change for the world’s poorest by enhancing the design and implementation of development policies and programs. That’s why Australia is committed to an innovative research portfolio and funds research, including through:
- competitive funding mechanisms (such as the Australian Development Research Awards)
- research partnerships with different Australian, international and developing country research institutions
- commissioning research to address a specific question or clearly defined research gap, and
- one-off research grants, when an existing program of research is relevant to the Australian aid program.
More information on how Australian aid funds research
As part of Australian aid’s research program, we fund research into health-related aspects of development, such as disease prevention and control, health systems and health financing.
In An Effective Aid Program for Australia, the Australian Government signaled its support (in principle) for ‘more aid funding for research by Australian and international institutions, particularly in medicine’. The Medical Research Strategy guides our investment in medical research.
Improving public health laws in the Pacific
Food preparation for a nutritious lunch at Wan Smolbag, Vanuatu. Photo by Rob Maccoll.
Public health laws are an important part of the social and legal infrastructure supporting the health system of a nation state. These laws set out how health programs are run, health promotion is supported, diseases are managed, data are collected, health emergencies are addressed, and the responsibilities of individuals and groups.
Many countries in the Pacific currently have public health laws which are out-dated, do not take account of health challenges and social trends, or do not support a modern approach to public health governance. While Pacific public health laws have been amended from time to time, they have not been comprehensively reviewed, and most countries do not have the resourcing or specialist expertise to do so.
Model Public Health Law for the Pacific examined existing Pacific public health laws and consulted with countries to understand how the laws are working. The project reported on the best practice approaches to develop public health laws, and how to apply this in the Pacific, and culminated in Public Health law in the Pacific—A Reviewers Companion (PDF, external website). The Reviewers Companion is a reference document for those who work with the legislation, regulation and enforcement of health policies. It details a series of legislative approaches which can be used in whole or in part to review public health legislation. These approaches were developed from research into existing public health laws and those who work with them, constitutional principles, international obligations, and customary law.
This project was recently completed by researchers at La Trobe University, working in collaboration with partner country governments in the Pacific and the World Health Organisation Western Pacific Regional Office. The development of the Reviewers Companion has stimulated the review of the Public Health Act in Vanuatu, and has also been provided to
Ministries of Health outside the Pacific.
Investment Case for Maternal Newborn and Child Health in Asia and the Pacific
Australia's support to Indonesia is helping to save the lives of pregnant women and their babies by reducing maternal and infant mortality. Photo: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Governments require good quality evidence and information to design effective policies and programs. By strengthening health systems governments can deliver better and more equitable maternal and child health outcomes critical to achieving MDGs 4 (child mortality) and 5 (maternal health). One way that Australia is supporting partner governments to meet this need for information is through funding to help them undertake an assessment of how their health budgets should be invested to get the best possible health outcomes.
The primary objective of this approach is to provide policymakers and planners with the evidence to:
- assess the current level and coverage of health services and outcomes for women and children
- identify the constraints hampering the scale-up of cost-effective maternal newborn and child health interventions
- design realistic strategies to address those constraints
- estimate the expected improvements and costs associated with the strategies proposed.
In 2007 under Australian leadership a network of key development partners was established to develop a regional investment case for Asia and the Pacific. In 2009, Austrailan aid and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation agreed to fund national (and sub-national) level investment cases on health services for women and children. As part of this initiative, a University of Queensland-led consortium has worked with planners and policymakers in Asia (Indonesia, Nepal, the Philippines, and the State of Orissa in India) at subnational levels to formulate and cost strategies to scale up maternal, newborn and child health services in disadvantaged communities. These have influenced local policy decisions about allocating resources to improve the health of women and children.
The current phase of this work (funded for two years from 2010-11 to 2012-13) will support a partnership between the University of Queensland-led consortium, and UNICEF, to increase the reach and quality of this important work in the region.
Strengthening a public/private health system
When the Health Policy Health Finance (HPHF) Hub began working in Indonesia with in-country partner the Centre for Health Service Management at the Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM), access to health services was increasingly becoming a luxury for those who could afford it.
This was primarily due to a rapidly growing private health sector and increasingly commercialised public health, as well as poor distribution of specialist doctors.
This work identified a need for more government support for not-for-profit hospitals and a more active role for professional health bodies and the private sector in co-regulation and in encouraging more even distribution of doctors across the region.
This provided new policy options for Indonesia’s health policy-makers to improve distribution of specialist doctors.
The Hospital Law of 2009 paved the way for improved government support of NFP hospitals. The HPHF Hub and UGM are now working together to explore the development of regulations for implementing these provisions.