NACCHO Aboriginal Health Research : Ministers @GregHuntMP and @KenWyattMP announce $160 million funding for Indigenous health research over 10 years targeting three flagship priorities and five key areas

“It is time to come together as a nation to work as partners in bringing equity in health outcomes”

The right research into improved treatments and services has the potential to dramatically accelerate the progress we have seen over the last six years in achieving better health for Indigenous Australians,”

Minister for Indigenous Health, Ken Wyatt AM

The fund is a vital step towards improving the health of our Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islander communities. Ultimately, parity in health outcomes is the only acceptable goal, and this fund will help to achieve it.

The research into improving the system is critical, but we are also absolutely committed to delivering real, on-the-ground improvements and frontline services right now “

Health Minister Greg Hunt

” It is a great honour to be asked to co-chair this critical research platform for the future.  Health and social inequity as experienced by Indigenous Australians stands as one of our nations great challenges.  Only through dedicated, collaborative, adequately resourced action, led by community priorities and processes can we hope to make meaningful change. 

Our collective job is to unlock the expertise and capabilities of the Indigenous community, backed the brightest and most gifted scientists and medical researchers and their institutions to make a more equitable future for all Australians.”

Professor Alex Browne : South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute

The Federal Government will provide $160 million for a national research initiative to improve the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The Indigenous Health Research Fund will be a 10-year research program funded from the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF).

It will support practical, innovative research into the best approaches to prevention, early intervention, and treatment of health conditions of greatest concern to Indigenous communities.

First three flagship priorities

The funding’s first three flagship priorities, which aim to deliver rapid solutions to some of the biggest preventable health challenges faced by our First Nations peoples, are:

  • Ending avoidable blindness
  • Ending avoidable deafness
  • Ending rheumatic heart disease

Minister for Indigenous Health, Ken Wyatt AM announced the first project to be funded under the Indigenous Health Research Fund on Sunday – $35 million for the development of a vaccine to eliminate rheumatic heart disease in Australia.

Rheumatic heart disease is a complication of bacterial infections of the throat and skin. Australia currently has the highest rate of rheumatic heart disease in the world.

Every year, nearly 250 children are diagnosed with acute rheumatic fever and 50 – 150 people die from rheumatic heart disease in Australia. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are 64 times more likely than non-Indigenous people to develop rheumatic heart disease, and nearly 20 times as likely to die from it.

“Rheumatic heart disease kills young people and devastates families. This funding will save countless lives in Australia and beyond,” Health Minister Greg Hunt said.

Five key areas of Research

The remaining $125 million Indigenous Health Research funding will be focussed on research projects that fall into five key areas – guaranteeing a healthy start to life, improving primary health care, overcoming the origins of inequality in health, reducing the burden of disease, and addressing emerging challenges.

An advisory panel comprising prominent Indigenous research experts and community leaders, cochaired by Prof. Alex Browne (South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute) and Prof. Misty Jenkins (Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research), will guide the Indigenous Health Research Fund investments.

It will be the first national research fund led by Indigenous people, and conducted with close engagement with Indigenous communities.

The Indigenous Health Research Fund will also seek contributions from philanthropic organisations, state governments, industry, and the private sector in order to increase the reach and impact of the fund.

The Indigenous Health Research Fund will provide the knowledge and understanding to make health programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people more effective and lead to lasting health improvements.

This is key to closing the gap in health outcomes since, despite considerable investment by the Commonwealth in existing programmes, Indigenous Australians currently have about a 10 year lower life expectancy and 2.3 times the burden of disease compared to non-Indigenous Australians.

The Morrison Government will provide separate funding of $3.8 million over four years to fund the University of Melbourne’s Indigenous Eye Health Program. This program aims to improve Indigenous eye health in Australia.

“The research into improving the system is critical, but we are also absolutely committed to delivering real, on-the-ground improvements and frontline services right now,” Minister Hunt said.

Our  Government has a long-standing and important commitment to achieving health equity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

The Government is investing $3.9 billion in Indigenous-specific health initiatives (from 2018-19 to 2021-22), an ongoing increase of around four per cent per year. This includes investment under the Indigenous Australians’ Health Program.

The MRFF is key to the Government’s health and research plans and is delivering significant benefits for Australian researchers, with over $2 billion in disbursements announced to date

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and @END_RHD @telethonkids #RHD : Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak bodies welcome Minister @KenWyattMP announcement of $35 million funding for vaccine to end rheumatic heart disease

“Today is a game-changing step. Ending RHD is a critical, tangible target to close the gap in Indigenous life expectancy.

Our Government is building on the work of the Coalition to Advance New Vaccines Against Group A Streptococcus (CANVAS) initiative, by providing $35 million over 3 years to fund the creation of a vaccine that will bring an end, once and for all, to RHD in Australia.

The trials and development, led by Australia’s leading infectious disease experts and coordinated by the Telethon Kids Institute, will give hope to thousands of First Nations people whose lives and families have been catastrophically affected by this illness.”

The funding announced today by Indigenous Health Minister Ken Wyatt AM is being provided from the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF).

The eradication of rheumatic heart disease, a deadly and devastating illness largely affecting Indigenous communities, is taking a major step forward, with the Federal Government investing $35 million in the development of a vaccine to combat the disease.

SEE Full Press Release Part 2 Below

Pictured below  : Saving the lives of children like 7 year old Tenaya, who has Rheumatic Heart Disease – Perth Hospital

“It is wonderful that the Commonwealth Government research funds have been directed to address this leading cause of inequality for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia. It is a turning point in progress towards a Strep A vaccine.

The Aboriginal Community Controlled Health sector welcomes this funding for the Strep A vaccine as one part of the work needed to end RHD.

It does not distract us from the ultimate goal of addressing the social and environmental factors – such as inequality, overcrowding, inadequate housing infrastructure, insufficient hygiene infrastructure and limited access to appropriate health services – which drive the high rates of RHD in Australia.

We hope that research funds will be mirrored by investment in frontline health services, such as ours, as part of a comprehensive strategy to end rheumatic heart disease in Australia”

NACCHO CEO Ms Pat Turner AM

ACHWA was represented at the launch by Vicki O’Donnell Chairperson

Part 1 : Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak bodies welcome Federal Government funding for new Australian-led Strep A vaccine  

Download full Press Release 

ACCHO_END RHD Statement 240219 Announcement_

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak bodies for the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health sector as leaders of END RHD advocacy alliance, warmly welcome Minister Wyatt’s announcement today of $35 million of funding for the acceleration of an Australian-led Strep A vaccine.

The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT), Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia (AHCSA), Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council (QAIHC), Aboriginal Health Medical Research Council of New South Wales (AH&MRC), Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia (AHCWA) are Founding Members of END RHD, leading a campaign calling for an end to rheumatic heart disease in Australia.

We congratulate Telethon Kids Institute, one of our fellow END RHD founding members, on being awarded this vital funding, and look forward to further engagement with researchers, communities, and other stakeholders as the project progresses.

END RHD has been calling for investment in strategic research and technology – including the development of a vaccine – as part of a range of funding priorities needed to eliminate rheumatic heart disease (RHD) in Australia. This funding is an important step towards that goal.

A vaccine has an important role to play in reducing the rates of rheumatic heart disease in years to come. We celebrate this announcement and recognise it is one important part of the comprehensive action needed to end RHD in Australia, and truly close the gap in health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

We invite you to join the movement to end rheumatic heart disease in Australia. You can pledge your support for the END RHD campaign at https://endrhd.org.au/take-action/

Part 2 

It will allow manufacture and testing of a number of vaccines currently being developed, and fast-tracking and funding of clinical trials in Australia. The aim is to accelerate availability of a vaccine for use in Australia and internationally.

“Today is a game-changing step,” said Minister Wyatt. “Ending RHD is a critical, tangible target to close the gap in Indigenous life expectancy.

“Our Government is building on the work of the Coalition to Advance New Vaccines Against Group A Streptococcus (CANVAS) initiative, by providing $35 million over 3 years to fund the creation of a vaccine that will bring an end, once and for all, to RHD in Australia.

“The trials and development, led by Australia’s leading infectious disease experts and coordinated by the Telethon Kids Institute, will give hope to thousands of First Nations people whose lives and families have been catastrophically affected by this illness.”

Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) is a complication of bacterial Streptococcus A infections of the throat and skin. Strep A and RHD are major causes of death around the world, with Strep A killing more than 500,000 people each year.

Australia has one of the highest incidences of rheumatic heart disease in the world. It is the leading cause of cardiovascular inequality between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians and is most commonly seen in adolescents and young adults.

Alarmingly, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are 64 times more likely than non Indigenous people to develop rheumatic heart disease, and nearly 20 times as likely to die from it.

Every year in Australia, nearly 250 children are diagnosed with acute rheumatic fever at an average age of 10 years. 50 – 150 people, mainly indigenous children or adolescents, die from RHD every year.

“Rheumatic heart disease kills young people and devastates families. This funding will save countless lives in Australia and beyond,” said Health Minister Greg Hunt.

“This initiative will also benefit Australia by ensuring it continues to be the global leader in Strep A and RHD research and public health implementation, and can build on its worldclass clinical trial and medical industry.

“Vulnerable communities, in particular Indigenous communities, will get the medicines they need; and Australian industry will have the opportunity to collaborate in developing and distributing the breakthrough vaccine, both here and overseas.”

The End RHD vaccine initiative will be directed by Prof Jonathan Carapetis AM (Director of the Telethon Kids Institute in Perth) and overseen by a Scientific Advisory Board including leading Australian and International experts.

The project will also be informed by an Indigenous Advisory Committee who will ensure that the voices of our First Nations people are heard and acknowledged, and that all components of the work are culturally safe and appropriate.

This latest initiative builds on funding already provided under our Government’s Rheumatic Fever Strategy. This includes $12.8 million to continue support for the existing state-based register and control programs in the Northern Territory, Western Australia, Queensland and South Australia; and new funding of $6 million for focused prevention activities in high-risk communities to prevent the initial incidence of acute rheumatic fever.

Our Government has also provided $165,000 to the END RHD Alliance to complete development of a roadmap to eliminate the disease in Australia.

“The death and suffering caused by Strep A and RHD is preventable,” said Minister Hunt. “RHD can be stopped and we want to end it on our watch.

“This is a further demonstration of our Government’s strong commitment to health and medical research, which is a key pillar of our Government’s long term health plan.”