10 Aug 2021

NZ backs plan for Pacific centre for disease research

2:16 pm on 10 August 2021

The coronavirus has highlighted the need to build capacity in infectious and communicable disease research in the Pacific, health experts say.


Typhoid Photo: 123.rf

Four years after a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between Fiji's National University and the University of Otago, a research centre is taking shape.

The Communicable Diseases Research Centre (CDRC) in Suva is being supported by Otago University's Global Health Institute, Dunedin's Mercy Hospital and the FNU.

Mercy Hospital has committed $97,500 over three years towards the employment of a co-ordinator for the new centre.

Otago University's Centre for International Health founder and co-director, professor Philip Hill, has been appointed as adjunct professor and will commit 20 percent of his time.

"It is a great privilege to be part of this new initiative from its inception. We are looking forward to a long and fruitful partnership with our friends at the FNU," he said.

Mercy Hospital mission co-ordinator Reverend Alofa Lale said the centre would create a platform for proactive engagement that aimed to strengthen collaboration capabilities around the region.

"We welcome the opportunity to support this new initiative in Fiji. The widespread potential for considerable positive influence in the whole Pacific around communicable diseases does not go unnoticed," he said.

The centre is the brainchild of Fijian epidemiologist Dr Donald Wilson, associate dean of research at FNU College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences (CMNHS).

"This Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the critical need to build capacity in infectious and communicable disease research, and for that we are extremely grateful to Otago and Mercy Hospital, for professor Hill's time, and the funding commitment to staffing of the CDRC," Dr Wilson said.

Dr Donald Wilson.

Dr Donald Wilson. Photo: Supplied

"The CDRC will be part of the College's Fiji Institute of Pacific Health Research (FIPHR), which at this stage is an integrated virtual research institute at CMNHS.

"For the sake of health research in the Pacific, we at FIPHR can only hope that this working relationship lasts for many, many years to come."

The new centre also established partnerships with researchers and institutions across the globe, Wilson said.

The head of Fiji's School of Nursing and Health Sciences Dr William May said the partnership would help research outcomes on infectious diseases across the Pacific.

"This plan sets the stage for further expansion, greater research and innovation achievements, while positioning the college for a more prominent role as a national and regional advisor and resource point on key health development challenges."

Otago's Global Health Institute's co-director associate professor Patrick Vakaoti welcomed Fiji's desire to establish a Pacific-led centre of international standard.

A fund-raising drive to build the world-class facility is expected in the next two years.

Staff look on as the room of a refugee diagnosed with typhoid fever is cleaned at Hillside house.

Staff look on as the room of a refugee diagnosed with typhoid fever is cleaned at Hillside house. Photo: Shaminda Kanapathi