By Jim Algie >>

There is a hyperactive humanitarian organisation – Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance – working at high speed to prevent outbreaks of disease around the world and particularly in the Asia-Pacific region. With the help of the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the alliance has launched about 350 vaccines. But Gavi regularly finds itself in a race against time and this innovative organisation could do with more help, especially from business leaders across the Asia-Pacific region.

WHEN a yellow fever outbreak occurred in Angola about 18 months ago, a dozen Chinese nationals working there brought the virus back to China, where the mosquito that carries this virus, as well as dengue fever, is common all across Asia.

Had the scourge not been contained, up to three billion people could have been infected with this viral serial killer.

In this digital age of globalisation, where business people and travellers cross time zones and borders at jet speeds, potential pandemics like this are growing threats.

Stockpiling vaccines to combat such diseases as cholera, ebola and meningitis is one of the main aims of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. 

Recently, this public-private partnership announced a new US$85 million drive to support typhoid conjugate vaccines.

In a statement, Gavi board chair Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said, “This disease has long been eliminated from most industrialised nations, but it is still a serious threat in developing countries where the vast majority of deaths occur. 

Gavi vaccines have helped save 640 million children worldwide.

“I lost my cousin and nearly lost my son because of typhoid. This vaccine will be a lifesaver for millions of children, especially those living without access to clean water or sanitation.”

Before the press conference in Bangkok to announce the new effort, Gavi’s CEO, Dr Seth Berkley, expounded on the foundation’s history and mission.

CHILDREN VACCINATED: 640M

So far, Gavi has helped to vaccinate more than 640 million children in dozens of countries, saving an estimated nine million lives.

Over the course of its 17-year history, working with partners like the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the alliance has launched about 350 vaccines.        

As a boy growing up in a poor part of New York, Dr Berkley saw how diseases ravage such communities. 

Those experiences informed the now 61-year-old’s decision to become a doctor and epidemiologist who Time magazine included on its list of ‘The 100 Most Influential People in the World’.  

After working in Uganda for three years to set up the country’s first HIV surveillance system and running Rockefeller Foundation health programs in Asia, he took over as the alliance’s CEO.

In spite of Gavi’s success stories, “the needs remain enormous,” said Dr Berkley. In the case of cholera, he said, “four years ago there were 200,000 dosages available. This year there’s 17 million and next year 25 million.”  

Working in developing countries poses many problems, like the lack of health care services and even basic infrastructure. 

Dr Seth Berkley

DRONES HELP DELIVER

In Rwanda, for example, where there are no private aircraft and many roads are impassable during the rainy season, Dr Berkley said, “42 percent of the blood is being delivered by drone”.

“So if a woman comes into a clinic and starts hemorrhaging and she’s five or six hours away from a real hospital, you just type in Type A blood and 20 minutes later it’s delivered to you by drone.”

Rawanda has been a testing ground for this delivery system, which is now being expanded into Tanzania, a bigger country with greater challenges.

Zipline, the company developing this technology, is a Silicone Valley start-up.

By pairing them up with United Parcel Services (UPS), Gavi can combine the creativity and experience of the private sector with its own altruistic mindset to make inroads that would be difficult for many bigger organisations, hampered by bureaucracy, or donor-driven foundations, constrained by limited budgets, to navigate.

With the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Gavi launched a program called Innovation for Uptake Scale and Equity (INFUSE) to harness “their network of tech pioneers and social entrepreneurs of companies to bring these technologies forward”.

“Our role is not to fund, but to connect companies that have already had some proof of concept and to connect them with developing countries where there are problems and to work on trying to scale,” Dr Berkley said.

That dedication to creative partnerships also extends into the realm of financial mechanisms.

Gavi programs have helped eliminate many diseases that once decimated the lives of children in Asia.

FUNDING INNOVATION

A program called International Financing Facility for Immunization (IFFM), gets governments to guarantee long-term payments to IFFM. 

With the World Bank serving as the treasurer, they can go onto the capital markets and raise vaccine bonds for IFFM that can be cashed in when they need them. Floated around the world, these bonds have raised another US$4.5 billion dollars for Gavi, saving untold lives in the process. 

Securing advanced purchase commitments for ebola vaccines to make sure there are sufficient reserves in case of an outbreak, the CEO said, was another way Gavi has been preparing for more pandemics such as the outbreak of yellow fever in Angola 18 months ago.

“It’s easy to say that you live in a country with a good healthcare system, but you can’t put a wall up to stop infectious diseases,” Dr Berkley said.

www.gavi.org

  • Jim Algie is a business journalist reporting throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

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BRISBANE-BASED Great Men Consultancy founder Grace Stewart used the recent World Mental Health Day to emphasise to business leaders that a greater awareness of men’s mental health – in the workplace and beyond – could help save many lives.

Ms Stewart called for a greater awareness of depression and psychological issues amongst men and boys – and encouraged men to speak out and get help if experiencing serious low points in their lives. She said there was no better place to highlight this issue than the workplace.

“When you’re busy and tired and perhaps focussing on significant changes in relationships and lifestyle, sleep deprivation and work or even school or sporting demands can all impact on male mental health, the ability to think clearly, manage emotions and think logically,” Ms Stewart said.

“We need to reduce stigma around men’s mental illness, create more openness and empathy in discussing mental health concerns for males who tend to use counselling services less often than women, due to a number of issues including the stigma attached to their illness, the discrimination they experience because of it and the lack of opportunity they face because of these issues.” 

According to the Mental Health Council of Australia, 70 percent of people suffering from mental health conditions do not seek medical help. This is where social acceptance and support is a big part of the treatment process.

Ms Stewart and her collagues emphasized that everyone could participate in mental health awareness every day. Education is the number one key.

“Men experience depression probably just as much as women, but resist treatment in the belief that depression is a woman’s disease,” Ms Stewart said. 

“Males often have the misconception that depression is a ‘feeling’ and men don’t talk about ‘feelings’. Depressed men often get angry at others, are less likely to seek help and often turn to abuse with alcohol or drugs.

“Depressed women, on the other hand, may blame themselves, but then they ask their doctor for help,” she said.

Great Men Consultancy research has identified that ‘stigma’ is a significant source of suffering for many people with mental health concerns, according to Ms Stewart. Fathers with a mental illness can be subject to unique forms of stigma which can influence their perceptions and experiences in a number of ways.

Depression is a leading cause of disability so many men cannot work. Depression also puts men at a high risk for suicide. They are four times more likely to take their lives than women.

“As experts in the field of men’s help-seeking, we can’t stress enough the need for males to seek help early when they are not coping, we are here for men and boys when they’re at their most vulnerable with life-stresses, alcohol and substance use,” Ms Stewart said.

Our sessions seek to expand personal insight and develop personal responsibility, the key ingredients to personal success.”

When husbands have depression and/or anxiety, it can tear apart marriage and family. Wives may take over and hope the problem will go away, or at the opposite end, withdraw – feeling betrayed and angry.

Ms Stewart said, more often, they alternate back and forth between these behaviours and emotions. About 50 percent of wives caring for a depressed husband will develop depression themselves.

“We want people to know that whatever their circumstances, there is no stigma to seeking help, you are not alone,” Ms Stewart said. “Most of us go through some difficult times in our lives.  Depression is one of the most common reasons people seek therapy, and the condition is highly treatable.

“Unfortunately, though, stigma surrounding depression inhibits many people from seeking treatment. Because an individual with depression may view themselves as flawed or weak, that person is likely to feel shame regarding his condition, and he may fear the consequences of disclosing the experience to employers, health care providers, family, and friends,” Ms Stewart said.

Great Men Consultancy teams focus on seeing men supported men through life; navigating topics such as relationships, parenting, substance misuse, career advancement, mental health and wellbeing.

“One of the main strategies is to work closely with the people close to you: your partner, children, parents and friends as we recognise their role in creating a positive and purposeful life,” she said. 

Great Men Consultancy is a Brisbane-based professional counselling and support service for men and their families to help ensure they maintain a healthy and positive life.  Backed by 25 years’ experience in cognitive and behavioural therapy (CBT), and other theoretical frameworks, the consultancy utilises the latest in counselling and psychological theory to help men address their problems and realise their full potential.

“Talking about issues like separation or mental health problems openly helps to break down some of the barriers or stigma men may experience in tough times. Our aim is to normalise help-seeking, and to offer men a variety of ways in which they can do so,” Ms Stewart said.

“As fathers, partners, sons, brothers, as well as employers or employees, men can often feel overwhelmed with responsibility.

“Therapy helps by teaching new ways of thinking and behaving, and changing habits that may be contributing to the depression. Therapy can also help men understand and work through difficult situations or relationships that may be causing their depression or making it worse.

“We work with men everyday who had reached a level of despair, counselling has had a positive impact and given them hope and great recovery outcomes,” Ms Stewart said..

World Mental Health Day is held in October each year in recognition of mental health and the affects it has on people all over the world.

www.greatmenconsultancy.com.au

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ONLY 13 percent of Australian workplaces are compliant with the First Aid National Code of Practice, while more than 65 percent of Australian employers are unaware of their First Aid obligations.

This is a statistic Australian Red Cross is looking to change as part of World First Aid Day on the September 9.

Research shows only 50 percent of Australian workplaces offer first aid training to their staff. 

Red Cross trainer Janie McCullagh said with less than 5 percent of people being trained in first aid, Australia was far behind other developed nations in ability to respond effectively in an emergency situation.

This lack of First Aid knowledge is costing businesses financially, with Safe Work Australia reporting that work related injury and illness were estimated to cost $60.6 billion in the 2008–09 financial year, representing 4.8 percent of GDP.

“While accidents can’t always be prevented, ensuring you have staff on hand that have fundamental first aid training and knowledge ensures the workplace is prepared and that you get the best outcome for those injured,” Ms McCullagh said.

In the lead up to World First Aid Day, Australian Red Cross is encouraging business owners and management to put the safety of their staff first and book First Aid Training for the workplace.

As an added incentive, Australian Red Cross is offering 10 percent off all workplace First Aid training booked. Refresher courses are also available.

To book, call 1300 367 428

 redcross.org.au/first-aid.aspx

Red Cross first aid kits can be viewed at redcross.org.au/firstaidkits

 

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OLYMPIAN Susie O’Neill has called on women across Queensland to join Australia’s most popular adventure trek series, the Wild Women On Top Coastrek, which will be held on the Sunshine Coast for the first time in 2017.

If you’re a tired woman, busy with work or raising a family and always putting yourself last, then get ready for an adventure that will exhilarate you, while raising money for The Fred Hollows Foundation.

Not only will you reap the social, mental and physical benefits of spending a day hiking along stunning coastlines with a bunch of girlfriends, you’ll also leave knowing you’ve had an impact on the lives of others by helping restore sight.  

Coastrek is a team trekking challenge designed to get women outdoors in nature. Teams of four (including at least two women) will walk the beautiful beaches, bays and clifftops of the Sunshine Coast for 30km or 60km.

Olympian Susie O’Neill, who is an ambassador for The Fred Hollows Foundation, completed Sydney Coastrek in 2014 and has teamed up with event organisers Wild Women On Top to call on women across Queensland to join the fun of Sunshine Coastrek on Friday July 28, 2017.

Registrations for the inaugural Sunshine Coastrek are open at www.sunshinecoastrek.com.au with 2,000 women pre-registered and ready to take up the challenge.

“Coastrek is a life-changing adventure. It’s a chance to get together with a group of friends or colleagues and support each other to be fitter, stronger and healthier,” Ms O’Neill said.

“It’s also an opportunity to change the lives of people living with avoidable blindness, particularly women and girls, who make up 60 per cent of the world’s blind.”

Di Westaway, CEO and 'chief adventure chick' of Wild Women On Top said, “Coastrek is not just another charity walk. It’s a 12 week journey with a happy ending. It’s for those women who want a challenge but also want the opportunity to grab a coffee and a gab, or even a spot of shopping along the way.

“When our girls leap across the finish line smiling but weary, you see that look of exhilaration on their faces. They know they’ve done something remarkable. Not only do they get fitter and stronger, but they also get their sparkle back and help to get the blind to see.”

Since Coastrek began in Sydney in 2010 and in Melbourne in 2015, nearly 19,000 trekkers have raised more than $14 million for The Fred Hollows Foundation, restoring sight to hundreds of thousands of people in some of the world’s poorest countries and training local eye doctors and health workers.

Sunshine Coastrekkers will not only push themselves physically, they will also aim to raise about $1.5million for The Fred Hollows Foundation.

Westaway started Wild Women On Top after what she calls her ‘Mid-Wife Crisis’. A frazzled, fed-up mum fighting 40, Westaway realised that while nurturing her growing family she had neglected herself. When a friend’s personal trainer invited her to climb a mountain in the Andes, a love affair with the thrill of adventure was born, and soon after so was Wild Women On Top.

“The main barriers to getting women outdoors are guilt, time, a negative association with exercise and family commitments. Coastrek motivates women to go walking with their friends because it makes them feel exhilarated,” Ms Westaway said.

Susie O’Neill remembers her Sydney trek fondly.

“I can say from experience that Coastrek is a fantastic way to spend time with friends, improve fitness and enjoy our beautiful coastline, and I encourage women across the Sunshine Coast and Queensland to join in,” she said.

“Tens of thousands of women have enjoyed the benefits of taking part in Coastrek and hundreds of thousands more have benefitted by having their sight restored thanks to the funds raised for The Fred Hollows Foundation.

“I wish I could join the first ever Sunshine Coastrek, but as you can see, my leg is in a boot so I am well behind on the training!”

Trekker Erika Bates, who joined Ms O'Neill and Ms Westaway at the launch said she felt great about getting fitter while helping raise vital funds to end avoidable blindness.

“The Sunshine coastline is full of natural wonders and there’s nothing more satisfying than being able to share those wonders with a group of friends, while challenging yourself and raising money for charity,” Ms Bates said.

“I’m really excited to be taking part in this year’s Coastrek and look forward to creating some great memories and sharing magical moments with my girlfriends along the way.”

Registrations for Sunshine Coastrek are open now, through www.sunshine.coastrek.com.au.

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HOMELESSNESS is both the experience and the target for hundreds of business leaders on June 22 when they take part in the CEO Sleep Out overnight in major cities and towns across Australia.

It is conducted in winter because that is the toughest time for homeless people – and it brings the situation home loud and clear to business communities around the country.

The Vinnies CEO Sleepout began as a local community venture in Sydney’s Parramatta in 2006, a simple but poignant idea from local business leader, Bernard Fhon, managing director of Tactical Solutions. He believed that business leaders who experienced the plight of homeless people in the depths of winter would be attuned and energised to the situation – and he wanted the money raised to go directly to assist those in need.

CEO Sleep Out organisers, charity for the needy the St Vincent de Paul Society, have developed the event to raise both awareness and funds to curb the plight of the thousands of  homeless people across the country, mostly located in major cities.

The concept is to have business leaders, company directors and CEOs spend a night out in the cold on June 22 – and June 29 in Adelaide – and to attract sponsorship for the cause. This year, some CEOs have raised up to $60,000 each pre-event.

Melbourne-based Marion Mays, CEO of the Thalia Stanley Group, signed up for the sleep out in Melbourne’s wintery city after an encounter with a homeless woman at her local shopping centre. 

Following the encounter, Ms Mays was surprised when her son asked if the lady would be safe outside all night, how she was going to get warm and where she would go to the toilet.

Ms May said in that moment she felt compelled to make a commitment to support the event and she aimed to raise both awareness and funds for the growing number of homeless people in Australian cities. She said the CEO Sleep Out was “a great way to raise awareness about homelessness as well as help fund soup kitchens and more”.

“While I already support other causes, I felt that spending one night out in the chill would drive the plight of our homeless people home to those that may not necessarily see how serious a problem homelessness is in our communities,” Ms Mays said.

“I hope to make more people aware of the reality disadvantaged people and those going through rough times face, especially during winter. I really hope that I can make a positive contribution to their lives.”

Ms Mays said she was aiming to raise $5000 for the cause and wqas urging anyone in her personal and professional network to get behind the initiative.

As a single mother, wealth advocate and money mindset mentor, she aspires to lift the level of financial literacy among Australians through her seminars and one-on-one sessions. She is also creating a learning program aimed especially at young people and women in the hope to curb the number of people ending up on the streets due to a lack of financial know-how.

The CEO Sleep Out has already raised almost $2 million dollars nationally and with the sleep out taking place right around the country with hundreds of CEOs and company directors just like Marion joining in, the hopes to out-raise last year’s effort are high.

“There is still time to sign-up for the Vinnies CEO Sleep Out and as the reality of winter starts to set in, we hope more leaders will be inspired to get behind this important cause,” St Vincent de Paul Society Victoria CEO, Sue Cattermole said.

“Victorians are encouraged to support those participating in the Sleep Out by making a donation. Every cent we raise will help to support our Vinnies Soup Vans and home visitation services, which provide an important point for human connection and essential food security 365 days a year.”

According to the St Vincent de Paul Society, winter is the hardest and most dangerous time for the growing number of homeless people in Australia, estimated to be over 100 000 – now one in every 200 people. With the growing numbers of women (44 percent) and especially children (17 percent of homeless are under 12 years old), homelessness has reached epidemic proportions which sparked the CEO Sleep Out being called into life in 2006.

To support the CEO Sleep Out and tireless work done for homeless people by Vinnies, contact www.ceosleepout.org.au/ceos/vic-ceos/marion-mays to make tax deductible donations.

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GRANTS of up to $15,000 are available to community groups around the country to help preserve and manage locally held, nationally significant ‘cultural heritage collections of documents and objects for future generations’. 

Eligible projects include significance assessments, preservation needs assessments, conservation activities and collection management.

The National Library manages the Community Heritage Grants Program — which is funded by the Australian Government through the Department of Communication and the Arts —with the National Archives of Australia, the National Film and Sound Archive and the National Museum of Australia.

Director-General of the National Library of Australia, Anne-Marie Schwirtlich  said the program, which began in 1994, had provided more than $5.7 million for a total of 1,192 projects around Australia — ranging from cities to the remotest of regions.

“We invite everyone from historical societies, museums, libraries, Indigenous groups, migrant community groups — everyone who believes they have a special collection in their local community, to apply for this year’s CHG,” Ms Schwirtlich said.

“Through these grants, you will receive expert guidance to assess the significance of such collections and financial help to carry out the work required to preserve and document them.”

First-time recipients are invited to Canberra to receive their grant and enhance their skills through the expertise of institutions like the National Library — and take that knowledge back to their communities, she said.

Applications should be submitted online at www.nla.gov.au/chg. They close on May 9, 2016.

www.nla,org.au

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