2016 Burnet Oration: Equity Through Better Health

Burnet Institute

26 October, 2016

The Honourable Dame Quentin Bryce AD CVO inspired a packed audience at the 2016 Burnet Oration with a message that medical research could improve life for the world’s poorest people.

“We know that improvements in health of marginalised people drive greater equity and that greater equity drives a more sustainable, secure and prosperous world,” the former Australian Governor General told the audience at Deakin Edge in Melbourne’s Federation Square.

IMAGE: Burnet Director and CEO Professor Brendan Crabb AC

But Dame Quentin, a Patron of Burnet Institute, said funding for research and development for new medicines and vaccines for neglected diseases remained too low.

“As millions have prospered, too many have been left behind.”

She called on governments across the Asia-Pacific region, the focus of much of the world’s economic growth, to invest in this agenda.

“Only four percent of new products registered during 2000-2011 were for neglected diseases. We can’t rely solely on the private sector to deliver treatments which can never expect to break even commercially,” she said.

Standard prevention and treatment of tuberculosis in low- and middle-income countries used a vaccine developed in 1921, a diagnostic developed in 1895, and drugs developed in the 1950s and 1960s, Dame Quentin told the audience.

IMAGE: Burnet Institute Chair Mr Rob Milne welcomes guests to the 2016 Burnet Oration

“We can do better.”

The annual Oration, in the Institute’s landmark 30th year, featured opening comments from Victorian Governor, the Hon. Linda Dessau AM, who is also Patron-In-Chief of Burnet Institute.

Mr Robert Milne, Chair of the Institute, and Professor Brendan Crabb AC, Director and Chief Executive Officer, hosted the oration.

IMAGE: The Hon Dame Quentin Bryce AD CVO, Professor Brendan Crabb AC, Her Excellency The Hon Linda Dessau AM, Governor of Victoria

Dame Quentin said three of the world’s most significant infectious diseases – malaria, HIV and tuberculosis – disproportionately affected the world’s poorest people.

But she said they impacted on us all, making the region less prosperous and secure.

She paid tribute to Burnet Institute’s Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies program, which works to reduce high rates of maternal and infant mortality in Papua New Guinea, Myanmar and Zimbabwe, and called for more women in leadership positions in poorer countries.

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