Media Release: Melbourne steps up to drive global health

Images, video overlay, two case studies (rotavirus vaccine and TB in adolescents) and backgrounder available.

Melbourne Children’s Global Health initiative to take action for the:

  • Two million children dying annually from pneumonia and diarrhoea
  • 8 million new child and youth cases of TB each year
  • Mental health and wellbeing of youth caught up in global unemployment, civic unrest, conflict, urbanisation and migration
  • Hospitals and health workers who want training and education to help them save their young patients.

Three of Australia’s child health leaders are joining forces to tackle global child health. Melbourne Children’s Global Health will build on the achievements of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI), the Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) and the University of Melbourne.

“Melbourne Children’s Global Health will work with 45 low resource countries to improve child and adolescent health equity,” said MCRI Director Professor Kathryn North. “For example, we plan to bring our new rotavirus vaccine to millions of Indonesian children, and to tackle the growing global burden of adolescent mental health.”

Prof North said, “The rotavirus story illustrates how our three institutions working together can change the world for the better. We discovered the rotavirus in 1973 at the Royal Children’s Hospital using electron microscopes at Melbourne University. We showed that this virus was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of young children.

“The discovery enabled national and global efforts to tackle rotavirus, but each year the virus still kills over 215,000 children under five, mainly in the developing world. And it hospitalises millions. That’s why MCRI have developed a new vaccine that can be given to babies just days after birth.”

Co-Chair of Melbourne Children’s Global Health, Prof Andrew Steer, said the initiative would bring:

  • faster development of vaccines and treatments for conditions including rotavirus, pneumonia, meningitis, scabies, trachoma, stomach cancer, rheumatic heart disease
  • trials of new interventions to tackle the growing burden of adolescent mental health issues
  • more effective ways to detect and manage drug-resistant tuberculosis
  • helping save eight million young lives by improving medical training and facilities in hospitals around the world.

Prof Steer said the creation of Melbourne Children’s Global Health would also help the three institutes secure research funding, strengthen their standing at international forums, and enable the researchers to better share information and resources.

Head of Melbourne University’s Medical School, Prof John Prins said many of the child health projects focussed on supporting health workers in developing countries to improve patient care.

“Our projects are collaborative,” Prof Prins said. “For example, Melbourne paediatricians work alongside paediatricians in countries in Asia Pacific and Africa designing better training programs for new doctors.”

Chair of the Board of The Royal Children’s Hospital, the Hon Rob Knowles AO, said the three institutions were already having a major impact in the Asia Pacific region.

“This allows us to leverage the collaboration and innovation we see across the Melbourne Children’s partnership and deliver improved outcomes for children across the globe.”

Rotavirus vaccine starts manufacturing

“Rotavirus kills 10,000 children under five every year in Indonesia and hospitalizes over 200,000,” said Dr Jarir At Thobari from Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, which has been collaborating with the Melbourne team on rotavirus for over 40 years.

“The rotavirus vaccine is now completing its phase one trial in Indonesia, with the final dose to be given this month. Our partner, PT Bio Farma, has started pilot manufacture, working out how to produce millions of doses. If a licencing trial in 2019 is successful, then the vaccine will be made available to Indonesian children in 2021. It will be the first rotavirus vaccine that can be given at birth, and the first made without using porcine products.”

“Melbourne Children’s Global Health will work with our Indonesian colleagues to ensure that the vaccine is used to best effect,” says Prof North.

Also featured at the launch

  • How can we help 1.8 million young people who are developing TB each year?
  • Reducing child deaths from pneumonia in Fiji through training, care programs, trials and guidance on the best vaccines
  • How a Vietnamese hospital halved the death rate of preterm and underweight babies
  • Supporting Laotian hospitals, with medical guidelines written in Lao language.

Media Contacts

Niall Byrne, Media Advisor, 0417 131 977,
Christine Tondorf, MCRI Media Advisor,,
0413 307 092 / 03 9936 6197
Further information:

For hi-res versions please click on the photo and then right click to download the file.

Monica Brook, Senior Registrar at The Royal Children’s Hospital, Paediatric Intensive Care Unit. (Credit: Melbourne Children’s Campus)

The first baby in Indonesia to be vaccinated with the new vaccine. (Credit: Melbourne Children’s Campus)

The midwives and doctor at the Jatinom Primary Health Centre in Klaten District, Central Java, which is connected to the new rotavirus trial. (Credit: Melbourne Children’s Campus)

Jarir At Thobari and colleagues from the Universitas Gadjah Mada at the Royal Children’s Hospital. (Credit: Melbourne Children’s Campus)

Dr Amy Gray speaking to a colleague in Laos. (Credit: Melbourne Children’s Campus)

Dr Evelyn Tuivaga (in black) and Dr Lisi Tikoduadua (in green). (Credit: Melbourne Children’s Campus)

Dr Evelyn Tuivaga (in black) and Dr Lisi Tikoduadua (in green). (Credit: Melbourne Children’s Campus)

Professor Yati Soenarto from Universitas Gadjah Mada, who has been involved in testing the new vaccine. She is with the first child in Indonesia to be given the vaccine and the child’s mother. (Credit: Melbourne Children’s Campus)

Media Contacts

Niall Byrne, Media Advisor, 0417 131 977,
Christine Tondorf, MCRI Media Advisor,,
0413 307 092 / 03 9936 6197
Further information: