The Australian Government is providing $10 million to establish a multidisciplinary national research network that will contribute to Australia’s preparedness and responsiveness to health threats from changing environmental conditions and extreme weather events.
The Healthy Environments And Lives (HEAL) Network will provide national and international leadership in environmental change and health research.
The national initiative will be comprised of researchers, practitioners, communities and policymakers who will work together to address themes such as urban health, bushfires, food security, heatwaves and other extreme events, and biosecurity.
HEAL network partners have committed more than $6 million in cash and $8 million in kind, in addition to the $10 million provided through the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Special Initiative in Human Health and Environmental Change.
The HEAL network is led by Professor Sotiris Vardoulakis, Professor of Global Health at the Australian National University, and includes 28 participating institutions. The network has strong Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership and wide geographic reach for a uniquely Australian response.
Minister for Health, Greg Hunt MP, said the network would develop the interdisciplinary, cross-sector, solutions-driven research needed to address local, regional, national and global challenges.
“Australians know from experience how we depend on working together to respond to global health challenges,” Minister Hunt said.
“The complex interplay of environmental change, extreme weather events, economics and public health requires a multidisciplinary, collaborative response that can inform future policy and practice.”
“The HEAL network will develop the evidence, capability and tools needed to protect and improve community health, strengthen health system resilience and reduce inequities and inequalities across communities and generations.”
NHMRC CEO Professor Anne Kelso said resilience to environmental change, emerging health threats and emergencies is one of NHMRC’s strategic priorities.
“This network will help to protect the health of the Australian community and build a resilient and responsive health system, based on strong engagement and co-design with federal and state governments, the public health and healthcare sectors, charities, communities, business and industry,” Professor Kelso said.
With strong leadership, the network will also seek respectfully to integrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge and culture with Western knowledge.
The multidisciplinary research network will include leaders in environmental/public health, health systems, economics, and climate, data and social science who will work together to assess and communicate environmental health risks, and develop practical integrated solutions to reduce their impacts and protect human health.