UQ researcher to help improve global health

07/04/05

The University of Queensland will play a key role in improving global public health through a new research project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation 'Grand Challenges in Global Health' (GCGH) initiative.

Professor Alan Lopez, head of UQ's School of Population Health, is a lead researcher in the project, in partnership with teams from Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, and the Broad Institute in the United States.

The research grant is a share of a $525 million worldwide scheme, which seeks to identify critical scientific challenges in global health and fund increased research on diseases that cause millions of deaths in the developing world.

The Population Health Metrics Research Consortium Project will receive $24.7 million to develop technologies that will give nation's throughout the world improved strategies for population health measurement which will lead to a better understanding of where to direct their public health resources.

Professor Lopez said the current lack of simple tools for measuring health meant there were major gaps in understanding the prevalence and incidence of diseases, such as malaria or HIV.

This made allocating resources, implementing treatment and prevention programs and monitoring and evaluating programs difficult or, at worst, ineffective.

"The result of this research will be a vastly better understanding of health, at a very low cost," Professor Lopez said.

"The Project will improve measurement strategies, even in countries where health statistics are incomplete. It will provide researchers and policy makers with innovative, field-tested and practical tools to measure population health, particularly in resource-poor settings.

"This creative and groundbreaking approach uses expertise in epidemiology, biomedical research, and population health assessment to provide a set of vital tools for governments and communities.

"Through instruments such as low-cost surveys we aim to equip governments to better understand their population health state and prioritise spending.

"For the developing world in particular it is critical to allocate limited resources in a manner that can provide maximal benefit.

"By providing an accurate picture of their health state and the effectiveness of interventions, we stand to help improve global health."

The five-year project will involve field sites in Bangladesh, the Philippines and Tanzania.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's Global Health program is dedicated to improving the lives of people in the developing world.

The Foundation focuses on health problems that cause the greatest burden in developing countries, but receive relatively little attention and resources, such as dengue fever, HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, vaccine-preventable diseases, diarrhea and respiratory infections.

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