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Griffith University and Universitas Syiah Kuala Collaborate to Launch CORE-STEP Project in Banda Aceh

Banda Aceh, Indonesia – October 6, 2023 – Today, Griffith University and Syiah Kuala University are proud to announce the official launch of the CORE-STEP (Advancing Innovative Knowledge-Based Solutions for Inclusive and Climate Ready Primary Health Care System) project in Banda Aceh City. This collaborative initiative, funded by the Australian Government through the KONEKSI Grant, aims to assess the vulnerability, capacity, and needs of Primary Health Centers (PUSKESMAS) in facing the impacts of climate change. The project launch brought together stakeholders from various backgrounds, including government agencies, NGOs, and selected PUSKESMAS in Banda Aceh.

The event commenced with an overview of the project presented by Dr. Rina Suryani Oktari from Universitas Syiah Kuala and Dr. Connie Cai Ru Gan from Griffith University. Dr. Oktari highlighted the objectives of the project, as well as the deliverables, which include a dashboard to assist PUSKESMAS in making climate-just decisions. Dr. Gan discussed the research approach, which focuses on the connection between the health of communities and the health of the environment, connecting islands of the archipelago , and utilising data to inform health service policies and practices.  This research is being conducted in three cities in Indonesia (Ambon, Mataram, Banda Aceh), with knowledge sharing activities also taking place in Australia.

The launch event received distinguished guests, including representatives from the Banda Aceh City Health Office, Banda Aceh City Disaster Management Agency (BPBD), the Social Security Agency (BPJS), the Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), the Central Bureau of Statistics (BPS), and World Health Organization (WHO) Indonesia, community (NGOs?). The involvement of these stakeholders demonstrates the collaborative effort required to create climate-resilient healthcare systems, as well as the importance placed on the long-standing partnership between Indonesia and Australia.

The Project Launch in Banda Aceh was officially opened by Prof. Dr. Ir. Agussabti, M.Si, the Vice Rector I of Universitas Syiah Kuala. In his speech, he stated, “Universitas Syiah Kuala fully supports research activities, especially those involving other universities. Additionally, I hope that through the CORE-STEP project, we can awaken the spirit that climate change is a shared issue that requires commitment and challenges, as well as responsibilities from all parties to address it.”

Earlier, the representative research advisor from Indonesia, Dr. dr. M. Yani, M.Kes, PKK, also gave a speech, inviting parties to be involved in data collection for this research project, one of which was a focus group discussion held that afternoon. Professor Yani further explained: “We know that this research was conducted in three cities in Indonesia which are all cities in coastal areas. However, these three cities have their uniqueness, customs and differences. Hoped that from these differences we can conclude a the feasible solution for climate resilience in Indonesia. We can also share knowledge with friends in Australia regarding strategies to increase resilience. It is hoped that this research will not only be useful for Indonesia but also for the world”.

The representative research advisor from Griffith University in Australia, Professor Sara Davies, also gave a speech via Zoom. She highlighted how important this project is as it works to reduce the humanitarian impacts of climate change by predicting hazards and taking action. Stating that “we need more humanitarian action linked to risk and vulnerability, instead of a singular focus on needs and suffering”. She also emphasised the diversity of this women-led team, which is made up of individuals from a range of disciplines including: environment, public health, medicine, geophysics, geology, technology, international relations, civil engineering and disaster science. Professor Sara concluded by noting how this project recognises the social-environmental factors that influence people’s health and that the evidence gathered will guide the development of innovative, socially equitable, gender-equal and disability-inclusive policies and practices that are climate resilient.

In addition, the Deputy Head of School of Medicine and Dentistry at Griffith University, Associate Professor Bernadette Sebar gave an online speech, which thanked all those who had contributed to the project so far and asked us to join her in celebrating the ongoing achievements and friendship between Australia and Indonesia. She described how the project addresses key contemporary issues concerning climate change, disaster and vulnerable populations, with the project creating engagement between researchers and end-users, which is necessary to develop research that truly makes a difference to solving real-world problems. Associate Professor Sebar described the importance of primary health centres as they provide accessible, affordable, and comprehensive health care, and also emphasised the importance of technology as a tool to mitigate the impacts of climate change. She concluded by describing the future directions for this project, which involves the development of an evidence-based dashboard to guide the formation of innovative, socially equitable, gender-equal and disability-inclusive policies and practices that are climate resilient. 

The Project Launch event was also attended by representatives from the Ministry of Health, Indonesia (Centre for Health Crisis) and World Health Organization (WHO) Indonesia. The representative from the Ministry of Health, Dr. Ira Cyndira Tresna M.I.Kom, read a speech from the head of the crisis centre, on behalf of Dr. Sumarjaya, SKM, MM, MFP, C.F.A, stating “Adaptations to climate change for climate sensitive diseases need to prioritise preventative health intervention efforts  focused on priority locations before a spike in incidents occurs. PUSKESMAS are the spearhead of the public health system. Increasing the capacity of the primary health system absolutely requires transformation that involves important stakeholders. In addition, the use of technology is also an important point for data integration that can be utilised. The involvement of academics and other parties in strengthening primary health care centres, especially in facing and responding to the challenges of future climate change, is very important given the current disparity in quality resources and health outcomes.” Meanwhile, the representative from WHO Indonesia – NPO Health Emergencies emphasised his support for the CORE-STEP project and said that he was ready to be further involved in this activity. 

Dr. Hendra Kurniawan, the site coordinator for Banda Aceh, stated in a separate interview that “The Banda Aceh project launch is the culminating event of a series of launch activities which we have previously also successfully carried out in Mataram and Ambon. With this project launch we aim to inform the public about the CORE STEP project that we will be carrying out over the next year, and to invite various parties to get involved in supporting this research in the future.”

The CORE-STEP project will continue its data collection activities in Banda Aceh, following previous launch events in Ambon and Mataram. The research outcomes will contribute to the development of innovative, socially equitable, and climate-resilient health care policies and practices.

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