News

Elimination of hepatitis C the focus of new funding grant

Burnet Institute

16 September, 2022

Federal Minister for Health and Aged Care, Mark Butler at Burnet

$14 million for health research partnerships

The elimination of hepatitis C in Australia is closer following a AUD$1.4 million boost to research. This is part of a $14 million investment in 12 research projects announced today at Burnet Institute by Federal Minister for Health and Aged Care, the Hon Mark Butler MP to help deliver better health care for Australians.  

Hepatitis C is one of the major causes of liver cirrhosis, liver cancer and liver failure. It can be eliminated by sustaining high rates of treatment, but Australia’s rates have stalled over recent years.

Research led by Professor Mark Stoové, head of public health at Burnet Institute, will identify how to best follow up notifications to improve hepatitis C treatment rates.

The Burnet-led project ‘Optimising public health notification systems to achieve hepatitis C elimination in Australia’ involves a collaboration with Hepatitis Australia, the Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine and the Paul Ramsay Foundation.

Minister Butler said the Burnet-led grant was an example of the importance of finding innovative ways to link the 50 per cent of Australians with chronic hepatitis C who have yet to take up the game-changing direct-acting antiviral (DAA) treatment option to clear the virus.

“Around 50 per cent of Australians with chronic hepatitis have availed themselves of this treatment (DAAs) and had wonderful results, both individually and for our country and the sustainability of our health system. The challenge now is connect that other 50 per cent of Australians with these amazing treatment,” Minister Butler said.

“We need to think of innovative ways to do that. This van that reaches out to communities across Victoria and the extraordinary work of Burnet’s team, is one example of that. One of the partnership grants that we are announcing today, led by the Burnet Institute and Professor Mark Stoové and Professor Margaret Hellard, partners with the Ramsay Foundation, who has contributed a great amount of funding to this, also along with patient groups through Hepatitis Australia and clinicians through ASHM as well.”

Image: Burnet Institute Director and CEO, Professor Brendan Crabb AC welcomed Minister Butler’s announcement of funding support to help eliminate hepatitis C.


Image: Minister Butler meets Burnet’s hepatitis C field nurse, Kate Allardice and LiverWELL’s Frank Carlus, who has cleared the hepatitis virus after using DAA treatment. Credit: Blue Tree Studios

A Chief Investigator on the grant, Professor Margaret Hellard said, “Hepatitis C is now curable and you no longer have to die from it, thanks to the breakthrough treatments (DAAs). Australia has made great inroads and we are more than 50 per cent there. But there are more people with hepatitis C who are not being treated, and they are at risk of dying of liver cancer or liver failure. That can be changed."

“This grant is about finding that other 50 per cent and how can we engage with them in an innovative way and systems. How do we work with affected communities? How do we work with community-based organisations and State governments? We are grateful to philanthropy partners like the Ramsay Foundation who have provided funding for this to engage with that final 50 per cent - the final phase of hepatitis C elimination.

“It is possible to achieve this task with innovative surveillance systems, innovative approaches to care like the van, like point-of-care tests, we can change this and achieve elimination of hepatitis C by 2030. Australia is leading on this and the world is looking to us to achieve this.”

Image: Minister Butler meets (L-R) Associate Professor Joseph Doyle, Professor Brendan Crabb AC, Professor Margaret Hellard AM, Frank Carlus and Kate Allardice.

Associate Professor Joseph Doyle, a Chief Investigator from Alfred Health and Monash University said: “Australia can eliminate hepatitis C as a public health threat by sustaining high rates of hepatitis C treatment. But Australia’s rates of hepatitis C treatment have stalled over recent years.”

“All hepatitis C diagnoses are notified to health departments and this partnership project will implement and evaluate a series of strategies across all states and territories and identify the most effective ways of following up notifications to enhance rates of hepatitis C treatment and cure in Australia.”

Image: Professor Caroline Homer AO, NHMRC Council Chair made a short speech.

Image: Hepatitis nurse Kate Allardice and Frank Carlus demonstrating some of the health care undertaken in the Burnet Hepatitis C outreach van.

NHMRC PARTNERSHIP PROJECTS

The Partnership Project scheme provides funding for researchers and partner organisations to work together to define research questions, undertake the research, and interpret and translate the findings into health policy and practice. 

Minister Butler added:  “The Partnership Projects announced today have the potential to improve the health and wellbeing of Australians across a range of areas. The projects will help us eliminate hepatitis C, better connect youth mental health services, help kids with cerebral palsy and improve road safety.”

“These partnerships help connect our best scientists with government and industry support, allowing them to do their vital work.” 

NHMRC CEO Professor Anne Kelso AO said:  “NHMRC’s Partnership Projects demonstrate the power of collaboration between researchers, policy makers and health service providers to ensure the right research questions are asked and the research outcomes will be implemented into better health policy and care.”

Click HERE to read the Minister’s media statement.

Contact Details

For more information in relation to this news article, please contact:

Professor Mark A Stoové

Head of Public Health

Telephone

+61385062301

Email

mark.stoove@burnet.edu.au

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