Image: Burnet Deputy Director (Programs) Professor Margaret Hellard
Burnet Institute senior researchers will play important roles at next week’s 15th World Congress on Public Health (WCPH) in Melbourne, as the leaders of dialogues on malaria, tuberculosis (TB), and HIV and hepatitis B and C.
The World Leadership Dialogues are high-level sessions featuring global experts, politicians, CEOs and public health leaders in a series of moderated public debates tackling key issues related to all areas of public health.
Professor Margaret Hellard (HIV and viral hepatitis), Dr Suman Majumdar (TB) and Associate Professor Freya Fowkes (malaria) were selected to lead their respective dialogues as ‘people whose personal achievements influence others and translate words into actions’.
“A common thread to all three of our sessions, the three diseases, is the World Health Organization 2030 elimination targets and the Sustainable Development Goals around the elimination of TB, malaria and HIV, and combating viral hepatitis,” Professor Hellard said.
“What these three dialogues are speaking to is how are we going to achieve these targets? The answer is through public health responses involving government, the affected communities, and health researchers.”
According to Professor Hellard, Australia’s innovative approach and its willingness to make treatment available to everyone who needs it, especially in community settings, makes it a world leader in its response to HIV and viral hepatitis elimination.
“Australia is working hard and doing well in addressing blood borne viruses,” she said. “But what are the lessons that can be taken from here to assist globally? These are the types of questions we’ll be addressing at the Congress.”
Professor Hellard described new point of care tests for hepatitis C, which are soon to be trialled, as a potentially important step towards achieving equity of access to treatment.
“If somebody is infected, they need to know that they are, so that they can respond to reduce risks,” she said. “We’ve got this program of trying to upscale getting people on treatment, but a key component of that is being able to test people in the right place at the right time in the right way.
“That will be addressed by point of care testing programs in community-based services.”
The WCPH program includes presentations from other Burnet researchers including Dr Megan Lim on young people and pornography, Cassandra Wright (translating new media interventions from research into practice), and Daniel O’Keefe on the deterrent effect of roadside drug testing.
The Congress, to be hosted at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, is held every 2-4 years by the World Federation of Public Health Associations and attracts between 2,000-4,000 delegates.
It serves as an international forum for the exchange of knowledge and experiences on key public health issues, contributing towards protecting and promoting public health at a national and global level.