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International Child Health

Each year around six million children die from preventable causes in the world, and most of these deaths occur in poor countries and vulnerable populations in the Asia-Pacific and African region.

MCRI’s International Child Health (ICH) group is working to increase recognition of, and improve care for treatable and preventable diseases in newborns, children, and adolescents. To achieve this we develop global, regional and national plans with the WHO, DFAT, and other partners. Our group supports health care providers and researchers in low and middle-income countries, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region, in capacity building through research collaboration and technical assistance.

One of our major areas of focus is the improvement of standards in facility and community-based care for the management and prevention of common diseases in newborns, children, and adolescents.

Our group includes global leaders in the prevention and management of pneumonia, invasive bacterial disease, tuberculosis, rheumatic heart disease, and newborn care.

Group Leaders: 
Group Members: 
Prof Trevor Duke
Honorary Senior Research Fellow
A/Prof Andrew Steer
Honorary Fellow (also Group A Streptococcal Research)
Dr Georgia Paxton
Honorary Fellow (Refugee Health)
Jane Hawtin
Programs Manager (also RCH Global)
Caitlyn Robertson
Research Administrator
Eleanor Neal
Research Assistant and Phd Candidate (also Pneumococcal Research)
Dr Daniel Engelman
PhD candidate (also Group A Streptococcal Research)
Dr Amy Gray
Honorary Research Fellow
Dr Kate Milner
PhD candidate
Dr Vicka Oktaria
PhD candidate
Dr Mohammed Chisti
PhD candidate
Dr Sarah McNab
PhD candidate
Michael Nunan
PhD candidate
Kathryn Snow
PhD candidate
A/Prof Fiona Russell
Honorary Fellow (also Pneumococcal Research)
Professor Kim Mulholland
Senior Principal Research Fellow (Pneumococcal Research)
Sanjeewani Pathirage
Research Administration Assistant
Dr Hamish Graham
PhD Candidate and Research Fellow
Dr Shidan Tosif
PhD Candidate and Research Fellow
Dr Myra Hardy
PhD Candidate and Global Health Fellow (also GAS Research)
Dr Jocelyn Chan
PhD Candidate (also Pneumococcal Research)
Dr Samantha Colquhoun
Postdoctoral Research Candidate (also GAS Research)
Patrick Walker
Honours Student
Rupert Weaver
Scholarly selective student (also Pneumococcal Research)
Daniel Lindholm
Data entry

Oxygen access
Oxygen therapy is a life-saving therapy that is used for millions of patients every day – from preterm neonates with respiratory distress, to children with pneumonia and other lung conditions, adults with emphysema, and those receiving anaesthesia for surgical procedures.

However, many patients in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) do not receive oxygen when they need it. Treatment is often limited by poor hypoxaemia diagnosis and unreliable oxygen supplies – exacerbated by high prices and weak maintenance systems.

Clinicians and researchers on the Melbourne Children’s campus have been working with partners to address oxygen access for over a decade. Together with partners in Papua New Guinea, Laos, and Nigeria, they have developed and tested strategies to improve hospital oxygen systems – including the use of pulse oximetry, oxygen concentrators, simple distribution systems, and renewable powers – and helped translate lessons into policy.

Click here for more information.

Caring for newborns and babies born too soon
In the Western Pacific, nine in every 1,000 newborns dies in their first month of life, and almost two million are born too early. Improving care during birth, and after a baby is born can be life-saving. We are implementing Early Essential Newborn Care interventions in hospitals in the Solomon Islands and Vietnam, and helping to improve community-based care in Fiji. With more babies surviving prematurity, there can be increases in developmental delay and disability. To identify and manage developmental delay and disability, we are working with the Ministry of Health, Fiji to develop a model for follow up care and services.

RE Ross Trust and child health in PNG
The RE Ross Trust Regional Child Health Fellowship focuses on building capacity in research, public health, clinical care, and leadership. We provide small grants and technical support to enable fellows to research priority areas of child health, participate in continuing professional development and develop health policy.

The program has supported training of over 30 PNG paediatricians, the PNG National Child Health Plan (2009-2020), a national surveillance system for paediatric illnesses, publication of 7 annual reports of Child Morbidity and Mortality, training of 250 PNG nurses in Hospital Care for Children, and establishment of a paediatric nursing course in Solomon Islands.

Oxygen systems
Reliable oxygen therapy is crucial for babies and children with life threatening pneumonia - the largest cause of child mortality in Papua New Guinea, Nigeria, and globally. Lack of oxygen is the biggest risk factor for death in childhood pneumonia.

We know that better oxygen systems can reduce deaths from pneumonia by a third. However oxygen is often unavailable in rural settings due to distance and lack of reliable electricity. This project (funded by the Gates Foundation) is installing comprehensive oxygen delivery systems and solar power in health facilitates across PNG and Nigeria.

Quality health care and education in Laos 
Implementation of evidence-based, quality health care for sick children can significantly improve outcomes and build capacity among health workers in resource-limited settings. Medical education and evaluation of implementation are critical steps in improving quality of care. Since 2015, ICH researchers have collaborated with paediatricians, WHO, Save the Children, and the Ministry of Health in Laos to improve the quality of care for children.

Interventions have focused on district hospitals including:

  • implementation of clinical guidelines
  • affordable oxygen systems
  • improved essential newborn care
  • development of training and evaluation tools and methods to monitor and report hospital data

Refugee child health and advocacy
Australia settles around 16,000 refugee arrivals each year; more than half are children or young people. There are also around 30,000 people in Australia seeking asylum, and Australian immigration policy has substantial effects on the health of this group. Members of our team work across clinical care, education, policy and research in refugee health in Australia. Our clinician-researchers are involved in developing guidelines and contributing to policy at local, state and federal level.  Areas of work include:

  • revision of national refugee health screening guidelines
  • Australian position statement on vitamin D and health
  • asylum seeker health
  • learning problems in refugee children

Child and adolescent tuberculosis
Tuberculosis (TB) is a major infectious disease killer globally. It is particularly common in poor and marginalised populations, with most cases occurring in the Asia-Pacific region. TB in children and adolescents is common in these populations but neglected by TB control programmes, and multi-drug resistant TB is increasingly common. We collaborate with research institutions and TB programmes in multiple countries in the Asia-Pacific and African regions. Together, we aim to improve the detection, treatment and prevention of TB in children and adolescents. In addition, we play a leading role in advocacy and translation to address the current wide policy-practice gap.

  • United Nations agencies: UNICEF and WHO Collaborating Centre for Child and Neonatal Health
  • Gadjah Mada Universitas, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
  • Ministries of Health and Medical Services: Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands
  • Ministry of Health, Lao PDR
  • Burnet Institute, Melbourne
  • International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease