Surgeon General of the Australian Defence Force Air Vice-Marshal Tracy Smart said Defence’s health engagement activities with the Pacific region were increasingly important in our interconnected world.

She was speaking at the inaugural Military Health Security Summit in Sydney, which was co-hosted by Joint Health Command (JHC) and the United States Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM).

The June 16-17 summit connected Pacific health security representatives from Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Tonga and Vanuatu with delegates from around the world to cement relationships and develop ideas to bolster health security resilience.

“An important element of national security is ensuring nations are prepared to prevent and respond to threats to human health, such as disease and epidemics,” Air Vice-Marshal Smart said.

“We continue to work closely with our Pacific neighbours to build strong people-to-people links so we can respond together to the health security challenges we face.”

USINDOPACOM Surgeon Rear Admiral Louis C. Tripoli discussed the importance of military medical partnerships and the important foundation they provided for training in global health, military medicine and humanitarian assistance and disaster response.

“We are committed to working with all nations, particularly those of Oceania, to develop and strengthen a robust and resilient capability to prevent, detect, and respond to health security threats, humanitarian crises and natural disasters,” Rear Admiral Tripoli said.

Director General of Operational Health, Brigadier Craig Schramm, who organised the summit with counterparts from the USINDOPACOM, said the summit explored the role of militaries in improving collective resilience to health security challenges and advanced the relationships of our Pacific neighbours.  

“Co-hosting the summit with our US colleagues increases our investment in the Pacific and supports expanded partnerships beyond the Asia-Pacific region,” Brigadier Schramm said.

The summit is one of many longstanding contributions JHC makes to the region.

Commanding Officer of the ADF Malaria and Infectious Disease Institute Lieutenant Colonel Alyson Auliff said there were benefits of working closely with Pacific neighbours.

One example is a research project which is investigating vector-borne diseases and tuberculosis.

“I have travelled regionally to conduct studies and have had the opportunity to assist with polio vaccination boosters for children, visit local hospitals and participate in activities with local military units,” Lieutenant Colonel Auliff said.

“It is really rewarding to work closely with regional counterparts and support their local defence forces to improve health and wellbeing for themselves and their communities.”

Defence’s continued health initiatives in the Pacific build on longstanding relationships and ensure its commitment to the region.