ASEAN-Australia Health Security Fellows respond to COVID-19 outbreak

Srean Chhim training contact tracing teams

Epidemiologists from the ASEAN-Australian Health Security Fellowship Program are working with incident response leaders and frontline health workers in efforts to contain and the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic across South-East Asia.

The Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra is home to a world-class field epidemiology training program, and delivers the two-year Master of Philosophy in Applied Epidemiology (MAE).

In a partnership the Health Security Initiative for the Indo-Pacific region, the MAE was offered to health professionals from ASEAN countries for the first time in 2019.

The MAE uses a best practice model of intensive workshops in Canberra combined with field placements to lead research and response activities for infectious disease in countries of South-East Asia. In 2019, the Fellowship program funded Fellows from Cambodia and Laos.

This year five students from Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam joined the program. “ANU is known throughout the world for training the very best field epidemiologists – the special frontline forces that Governments need to respond to pandemics and other disasters,” says Professor Russell Gruen, Dean of ANU’s College of Health and Medicine.

“We are pleased to help build the workforce in our neighbouring countries through this Fellowship program, and strengthen cross-border collaboration and health security in the region.”

Srean Chhim, a Fellow from Cambodia, is currently on a field placement at the Institut Pasteur du Cambodge and was deployed to Cambodia’s Ministry of Health and Centre for Disease Control to support training on contact tracing for health workers.

Together with Elenor Kerr, an Australian Fellow on the program also deployed to Cambodia, Srean also worked to screen passengers who disembarked from a cruise ship in February.

Ha Linh Quach and Ngoc-Anh Hoang, who started the Fellowship program in 2020, have joined teams to trace contacts and conduct surveillance of the COVID-19 outbreak for the Ministry of Health in Vietnam. Fellows from Laos and Myanmar are also supporting the response to COVID-19.

Announced as part of the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit in Sydney in 2018, the ASEAN-Australia Health Security Fellowships program is a five-year partnership funded by the Indo-Pacific Centre for Health Security.

Read profiles of the five 2020 ASEAN-Australian Health Security Fellows here.