Peer workers in PNG

Introducing the Asia and Pacific Health Program

News | Published on 14 May 2024

A new research program dedicated to improving sexual reproductive and maternal health in low- and middle-income Asia-Pacific countries has been created at the Kirby Institute.

Led by Professor Andrew Vallely, who joined the Kirby Institute in 2010, the Asia and Pacific Health Program has a goal to advance the global agendas on cervical cancer elimination; the elimination of parent-to-child transmission of HIV, syphilis and hepatitis B; and ending HIV and AIDS in our region.

“Our focus is exclusively on the research and health development priorities of low- and middle-income countries. We are dedicated to addressing these priorities through a decolonising approach that puts in-country partners, stakeholders, and communities firmly at the centre of all we do,” said Prof Vallely.

Clinic launch, New Ireland Province, Papua New Guinea
L-R: Prof Vallely; Josephine Gabuzzi, Western Highlands Province Health Authority (WHPHA); Dr Stenard Hiasihri, New Ireland Province Health Authority (NIPHA); Dr Paulus Ripa, WHPHA; Dr Paula Zzferio, NIPHA

The new program builds on innovative research, landmark philanthropic and development partner investments secured by Prof Vallely and Scientia Associate Professor Angela Kelly-Hanku.

“Our vision is to advance health equity, and social justice through the co-design, evaluation, and population-level implementation of innovative solutions to public health challenges in our region,” said A/Prof Kelly-Hanku.

The program has its foundation in Papua New Guinea, where members of the team have lived and worked as researchers and clinicians for more than three decades. “Supporting the vision and leadership of in-country partners in PNG and other countries in our region are paramount,” said Prof Vallely.

A/Prof Angela Kelly-Hanku and ACTUP-PNG colleagues
A/Prof Angela Kelly-Hanku and ACTUP-PNG colleagues

Scientia Professor Anthony Kelleher says that the establishment of the program recognises the many years of successful research conducted by Prof Vallely and his team, as well as the Kirby Institute’s ever-growing commitment to improving health in our region.

“The Asia and Pacific Health Program will elevate our work to advance global health, eliminate priority infectious diseases, and tackle stigma and inequity in our region,” he said.

The Asia and Pacific Health Program is led by Professor Andrew Vallely (Program Head) and Scientia Associate Professor Angela Kelly-Hanku. Dr Lisa Vallely leads the program's research in maternal and perinatal health, Dr Michaela Riddell leads work in implementation science, Ms Vanessa Price provides technical support to partner countries in program implementation and management on cervical cancer elimination, and Dr Gillian Scott supports HIV initiatives in PNG.