A 20-year success story: Burnet in Tibet (China)

Burnet Institute

20 May, 2018

Image: Clean tap water systems were among Burnet's many health initiatives in Tibet over two decades.

Burnet’s highly-praised work improving health in the Tibet Autonomous Region (Tibet) ended recently after a unique 20-year engagement.

Our projects in Tibet, funded by the Australian Government and carried out with partners such as the Australian Red Cross, ranged from constructing health clinics and drinking water systems, to setting up an HIV response program, through to partnering closely with the Tibet Regional Health Bureau on staff training, new systems for maternal and child health, outbreak preparedness, and improved management practices.

“This has been a remarkable era of work, work that truly reflects Burnet’s vision and mission,” Burnet’s Head of International Operations Professor Robert Power said.

Some highlights of Burnet’s long involvement were:

  • The transition from international to local health leadership. In 2005 about 90 per cent of expert inputs came from international advisors; by 2017 nearly all expert advisors were from within China, with half sourced from within Tibet.

  • A total of 609 agencies (of the 1,430 in Tibet), mainly hospitals and Centres for Disease Control (CDC) from regional, prefecture, county and township levels, participated in the program activities.

  • Approximately 3,100 individuals from health and family planning commissions, hospitals and CDCs participated in various types of management activities.

Image: Training of trainers course.

  • Focused operational research activities resulted in over 40 journal publications.

  • Forty-one hospitals (out of 81) were supported to improve management and clinical skills, with 28 of these successfully passing the rigorous official classification that entitles them to greater government funding.

Burnet’s programs achieved some of the highest rankings available from DFAT evaluations. The final comment from DFAT’s April 2018 Partner Performance Assessment praised the Institute’s 20-year involvement.

“Burnet played a positive role in linking Australian people with the people of Tibet. DFAT highly appreciates the contributions made by Burnet in promoting Australia’s image in TAR,” the assessment said.

Special thanks to Dr Lai Youwen

Professor Power said many people had made contributions to the program over two decades, but paid special tribute to Burnet’s Team Leader, Tibet Health Capacity Building Program, Dr Youwen (Tony) Lai.

“Tony has been with us from the earliest days, notably as Team Leader during the last two phases of our program. His professionalism and outstanding commitment were essential in ensuring the smooth and successful outcomes of our work,” Professor Power said.

Image: Dr Lai with former Australian Ambassador to China Ms Frances Adamson.

Burnet Director and CEO, Professor Brendan Crabb AC, said over 20 years the Institute had achieved some of the highest rankings available from DFAT evaluations, alongside glowing accolades.

“In 2014 the external evaluators noted that our work was ‘…the right program, at the right time, in the right place, with the right people.”

He said Burnet had made a unique and hugely valued contribution to the historic region.

“We can look back with pride and satisfaction, secure in the knowledge that so much of our efforts have led to sustainable and meaningful change that has improved Tibet’s health system, the quality of service delivery, and ultimately the health of the Tibetan people.”

Contact Details

For more information in relation to this news article, please contact:

Burnet Institute

[email protected]




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