Strategic Framework

The Strategic Framework guides the investment of resources and a linked suite of programs under the Australian Government’s Health Security Initiative for the Indo-Pacific region (the Initiative).

The Strategic Framework guides the investment of resources and a linked suite of programs under the Australian Government’s Health Security Initiative for the Indo-Pacific region (the Initiative).

The goal of the Initiative is: To contribute to the avoidance and containment of infectious disease threats with the potential to cause social and economic harms on a national, regional or global scale.

Funding of $300 million has been allocated to the Initiative over the five years to mid-2022 from Australia’s international development assistance budget. Following the launch of the Initiative in October 2017, investment priorities were progressively established during 2018 with reference to the central international normative frameworks for assessing public health capacity, and on the basis of consultations with partner governments, regional, international and non-governmental development organisations engaged in the provision of health security assistance, and key Australian research and operational agencies active in the field of infectious disease prevention, detection and response. This framework is also based on reviews of evidence and practice from Australia’s long history of support for infectious disease management.

Country and multi-country investments under the Initiative are concentrated in Southeast Asia, Papua New Guinea (PNG) and the Pacific island countries, and fall under one or more of three overarching objectives:

Anticipate: To help countries assess their infectious disease threats and capacity deficits, and equip themselves with appropriate policy and regulatory arrangements, particularly with respect to access to medicines and vector control technologies.

Avert: To mitigate infectious disease threats through support for improved infection prevention and control; vector control; and surveillance with respect to infectious diseases, immunisation coverage and treatment-resistance in pathogens and vectors.

Arrest: To build capacity to detect and respond to infectious disease outbreaks through laboratory strengthening; targeted public health workforce development; and support for improved outbreak detection and management.


Related Challenges 
Climate change and health security

Australia’s Foreign Policy White Paper of 2017 recognises that climate change poses a range of economic, environmental, and security risks to countries in the Indo-Pacific region. Although there is still much to be learned about the complex pathways by which climate change affects human and animal health, it is generally acknowledged that climate change is likely to threaten global health security by influencing the emergence, resurgence, and distribution of infectious diseases around the world.

Some of the health security risks that may be influenced by climate change include:

Vector-borne diseases: Many vectors of disease (such as mosquitoes) are affected by climatic factors including temperature and rainfall. Climate change is expected to alter the frequency and geographical distribution of diseases such as malaria, dengue, and Zika. Strengthening routine surveillance of vectors and the diseases spread by them will help countries in our region to better prevent, detect, and rapidly respond to outbreaks.

Zoonotic diseases (diseases spread from animals to people): Climate change can also contribute to increased migration and displacement of both people and animals, as well as changes in land use patterns and agricultural practices, which put people and animals into contact in new ways. The risks of zoonotic disease transmission are worsened by inadequate access to veterinary and human health services. This is of particular concern in rural and remote areas, and among vulnerable and displaced populations.

Disaster preparedness and response: Climate change is expected to increase the frequency and severity of weather events and natural disasters such as cyclones, droughts, and floods. The impact of these events on access to safe water and sanitation can increase the risk of water-borne and other infectious disease outbreaks, such as typhoid and cholera. Implementing early warning systems and ensuring that national plans include an awareness of the disease risks that may arise during or after a natural disaster can improve detection and accelerate response. Pre-emptive measures such as preventive vaccination campaigns and pre-positioning of essential medical supplies can also help to reduce the impact should an outbreak occur.

Health systems infrastructure: Strong health systems are best placed to prepare for and respond to the health impacts of climate change, as well as other health emergencies. ‘Climate-smart’ health facilities, laboratories, and related critical infrastructure (including digital infrastructure and surveillance systems), designed to withstand severe weather events, are an important component of strong health systems. This is particularly important in the Pacific islands, which are vulnerable to sea level rise and extreme weather events.

The Indo-Pacific Centre for Health Security aims to inform evidence-based planning, help prevent avoidable epidemics, strengthen early detection capacity, and support rapid, effective national and international outbreak responses. We adopt a holistic perspective informed by the principles of One Health (i.e., recognising the interconnectedness of humans, animals, and the environment, and the importance of multi-sectoral and multi-disciplinary cooperation). We work collaboratively with our partners to identify potential climate-related or environmental risks, including recognising where those risks differently affect specific population groups.

To learn more about the impacts of climate change on health security, see the Health Security in the Indo-Pacific State of the Region 2019 report. More about Australia’s development assistance for climate change can be found here.

People with disability

Disability-inclusive development is a priority for Australia’s international engagement and is an important cross-cutting theme for the Centre for Health Security. Disability-inclusive development provides opportunities for people with disabilities to participate on an equal basis to others and realise their full potential. This enables countries to harness the potential contribution of all citizens, maximising opportunities for poverty reduction and sustainable economic growth.

In designing investments, the Centre for Health Security has sought to identify entry points for strengthening approaches to disability inclusion and strategic opportunities to improve outcomes for people with disabilities. While there is limited published evidence on infectious disease risk and the impact of outbreaks on people with disabilities, the Centre and investment partners are committed to ensuring that people with disabilities are not left behind in workforce development opportunities for health security, or in response efforts to emerging infectious diseases and health emergencies. In health security, opportunities exist through partnerships with Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs), inclusive training, disaggregation of surveillance data, more accessible health information and deeper epidemiological analysis.

More about Australia’s commitment to disability-inclusive development can be found here.

Gender Inequality

The Centre recognises that infectious disease threats impact gender and sex differently due to physiological differences and the roles that males, females and people of diverse gender play in society. For example in Indo-Pacific countries, outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) have different impacts on men and women because men are more involved in large-scale commercial poultry farming. Commercial farms have better biosecurity, therefore resulting in a lower risk of HPAI outbreaks. Whereas, women are more involved in small scale poultry farming where biosecurity measures are not always in place. Female workers are more involved in the sale of poultry at live bird markets which also increases the risk of HPAI.

To ensure no one is left behind and as outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals, it is necessary to be gender responsive and gender inclusive in health aid programming. Gender- informed responses to health security threats lead to better understanding of transmission patterns, and more effective outbreak preparedness, prevention and control. The Indo-Pacific Centre for Health Security is committed to addressing gender in health security in four key areas including policy dialogue, partnerships, research and people-to-people links. Examples of this include:

  • Promoting sex and gender integrated approaches to prevention, preparedness and response activities
  • Encouraging all research to disaggregate data by sex
  • Encouraging equal training and opportunities for men and women.

We work together with our partners to ensure that all of the programs funded by The Centre have considered gender in their design and throughout the duration of the program. To learn more about the impacts of health security threats on gender, see the Health Security in the Indo-Pacific State of the Region 2019 report. Information about Australia’s development assistance for gender, equality and women’s empowerment strategy can be found here.

One Health

One of the Centre’s core principles is that health security cannot be achieved without a One Health approach. Approximately 75 per cent of newly emerging infectious diseases are zoonoses (diseases that spread from animals to people) that result from various anthropogenic, genetic, ecologic, socioeconomic and climatic drivers.

One Health is an approach that recognises that the health of people, animals and the environment are interconnected. Across the Indo-Pacific, animal production systems are changing rapidly whilst animal health systems and their capacities to diagnose, treat and control diseases are generally weak and under-resourced. Ecological systems are also under strain from changing land use patterns and climatic effects. These factors pose major threats to human health.

One Health offers a holistic, integrated approach to answering complex questions surrounding human, animal and environmental health. The Centre for Health Security has two reasons for supporting a One Health approach. The first is the ongoing need for new methods of addressing and understanding complex health problems to overcome the severe health challenges which transcend both national borders and disciplinary boundaries. The second is for knowledge translation; converting research into practice to see an improvement in research outcomes with community members and policy makers.

The Centre will emphasise efforts to strengthen animal health systems and enhance collaboration between human health and veterinary sectors.

Examples of the Centre’s One Health approach include:

  • Support to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) Collaboration (Tripartite)
  • The Research for One Health Systems Strengthening Program – a group of research projects co-funded with the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) addressing zoonoses, antimicrobial resistance and systems strengthening within the Asia Pacific.