Office of Health Protection (OHP)

This page contains information on the roles of OHP and the responsibilities of each Branch.

Page last updated: 23 July 2015

The mission of OHP, in partnership with key stakeholders, is to protect the health of the Australian community through effective national leadership and coordination and building of appropriate capacity and capability to detect, prevent and respond to threats to public health and safety.

Health Protection Policy Branch (HPPB)

HPPB provides national leadership, policy advice, analysis, coordination and communication of health protection strategies, surveillance and coordination of outbreak responses for communicable diseases and to reduce the impact of blood borne viruses and sexually transmissible infection. The key priorities for HPPB are:
  • Development of strategic approaches for current health risks in Australia, including assessing the vulnerabilities and approaches that need to be taken;
  • Management of the Torres Strait Cross Border Health Issues Committee;
  • Delivery of policy and programmes which lead and coordinate the Government’s response to blood-borne viruses and sexually transmissible infections in line with the priorities identified in the five National BBV and STI Strategies 2014-2017;
  • Manage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sexual health policy and programs;
  • Coordinate International reporting on the national response to blood borne viruses and sexually transmissible infections from government departments and national key organisations;
  • Oversight and coordination of activities to implement priority areas for action identified in Australia’s First National Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy 2015-2019;
  • Management of the General Practice Roundtable (GPRT), which works collaboratively with the Department under the direction of the Chair, the Australian Government Chief Medical Officer, to inform and provide advice to OHP on a variety of issues that relate to the role of primary health care in emergency preparedness and response management;
    • Managing the secretariat for three AHPPC standing committees: Environmental Health Standing Committee: Communicable Disease Network of Australia: Blood Borne Viruses and Sexually Transmissible Infections Standing Committee: as well as associated committees and working groups;
  • Managing and monitoring, analysing, assessing risks and reporting on traditional vaccine preventable diseases, influenza, bacterial diseases, bloodborne viruses and sexually transmitted infections, zoonoses, vectorborne and emerging infectious diseases;
  • Coordinating OzFoodNet, Australia’s enhanced foodborne disease surveillance network including liaison with FSANZ on current and emerging food safety issues;
  • Working closely with Communicable Diseases Network Australia on the development and maintenance of policies, systems for surveillance and analysis of communicable and emerging diseases;
  • Disseminate information on the epidemiology of communicable disease in Australia, through publishing the Communicable Diseases Intelligence journal; and
  • Management of systems to collect surveillance data for nationally notifiable diseases, including the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System, NetEpi and the Syndromic Surveillance Systems.

Health Emergency Management Branch (HEMB)

HEMB is responsible for prevention, preparedness and response activities related to national health emergencies and risks. This encompasses mass casualty incidents, communicable disease outbreaks, acts of terrorism, and the health impacts of natural disasters. The branch also supports the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC). The key priorities for HEMB are:
  • Ensuring national health emergency responses are founded on integrated and coordinated arrangements to respond to both national and international health emergencies
  • Providing national leadership on strategies to support the health sector and the whole-of-government to effectively respond to pandemics;
  • Managing the Department’s health emergency responses, including the National Incident Room (NIR), its infrastructure, procedures and workforce;
  • Managing the National Medical Stockpile (NMS), including inventory management, including inventory management, and implementation of reform activities to strengthen the efficiency and effectiveness of operational arrangements;
  • Overseeing the governance and funding of the National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre (NCCTRC);
  • Administering the Security Sensitive Biological Agents Regulatory Scheme;
  • Building laboratory capacity to detect, identify and respond to existing and emerging communicable diseases and security sensitive biological agents;
  • Liaison with other Australian Government agencies and international fora on international and cross border health protection and surveillance matters;
  • Managing the Health sector Group of the Trusted Information Sharing Network for the Attorney-General’s Department’s Critical Infrastructure Resilience program;
  • Manage the implementation of the Attorney-General’s Department’s Critical Infrastructure Resilience program;
  • Delivery of human health aspects of the Government’s biosecurity reforms, including development of new legislation to replace the Quarantine Act 1908;
  • National Focal Point for World Health Organization International Health Regulations 2005;
  • Managing the secretariat for AHPPC and two of its standing committees: National Health Emergency Management Standing Committee: Public Health Laboratory Network: as well as associated committees and working groups;
  • Policy development and stakeholder liaison associated with the Health Protection Fund; and
  • Collaborating with the Department of Defence in the Quadrilateral Medical Countermeasures Consortium.

Immunisation Branch (IB)

IB is responsible for the management of immunisation programs and policies to support the Government’s preventative health framework. The key priorities for IB are:
  • Implementing the National Immunisation Program (NIP), a joint program with states and territories managed under the National Partnership Agreement on Essential Vaccines (NPEV);
  • Undertaking the procurement of essential vaccines for the NIP;
  • Implementing the National Immunisation Strategy;
  • Developing evidence-based policy and technical advice to support the NIP;
  • Facilitating the review and ongoing management of the NPEV including performance indicators and liaison with states and territories;
  • Managing the financial aspects of the NPEV including management of supply contracts
  • Liaising with the Therapeutic Goods Administration on aspects of vaccine registration, adverse event monitoring and reporting in relation to vaccines on the NIP;
  • Liaising with the Pharmaceutical Benefits Division on Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee consideration of vaccine applications for the NIP;
  • Liaising with Health Workforce on immunisation provider workforce issues;
  • Reviewing, updating, publishing and evaluating the Australian Immunisation Handbook;
  • Managing the Department’s agreements with:
    • the National Centre for Immunisation and Surveillance Research for the Immunise Australia Program;
    • Department of Human Services for the Australian Childhood Immunisation Register; and
    • the Victorian Cytology Service for the Human Papillomavirus Vaccination Program Register.
  • Provide secretariat support for:
    • the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation;
    • the National Immunisation Committee;
    • the National Immunisation Committee Data Subcommittee; and
    • the Jurisdictional Immunisation Coordinators.

Principal Medical Advisers

The Principal Medical Advisers aim to ensure the clinical, scientific and public health skills and expertise of its staff are matched to the work priorities and program of the Office, the workflow is timely and outputs of a high quality, and the Unit is accountable against the objectives and priorities of the OHP. Key priority areas for the Principal Medical Advisers are:
  • Clinical, scientific and public health support to emerging health events on a 24/7 basis, through the OHP medical team during hours, and extended to the surge medical team after hours drawn from a pool of participating, trained Departmental doctors;
  • Ongoing support and advice to all aspects of health preparedness planning;
  • Clinical and public health input to policies and programs which focus on threats to human health posed by communicable diseases and environmental factors; and
  • Input to the development and application of our evidence-based knowledge base in relation to the many arms of health protection.