Rohina Joshi, Scientia Associate Professor of Global Health at the School of Population Health, UNSW Medicine and Health, is a finalist in the 2022 India Australia Business Community Alliance (IABCA) Awards.

Selected from over 200 nominations from businesses, professionals, exporters and not-for-profits across the globe, Associate Professor Joshi is a finalist in two of the 11 categories – the highly contested IABCA Australia India Impact Award and the IABCA Australia India Science, Research and Development Award

Professor Rebecca Ivers, Head of the School of Population Health said: “Congratulations to Associate Professor Joshi on this recognition; it is testament to the stand-out innovation and excellence of her work and its invaluable contribution to the health outcomes and wellbeing of communities in India, Australia and beyond.”

The Australia India Impact Award recognises the contributions of an individual, organisation or project that adds value to the bilateral relationship and celebrates projects and organisations that have expanded from Australia to India or India to Australia. The Australia India Science, Research and Development Award recognises outstanding contributions to the advancement of science, technology and research made by an organisation or an individual.

Reflecting on being a finalist in the IACBC Awards, Associate Professor Joshi said: “India and Australia are both home for me, one is my birthplace, and the other is my adopted home – working across both the countries is a privilege.”  

“IABCA encourages diaspora like me to keep doing the work that we are passionate about – one that builds stronger ties across the two nations and positively impacts the lives of people across the globe,” she said.

Associate Professor Joshi is being recognised for her innovation in strengthening the health workforce and health information systems, improving access to healthcare, and, in response to the second wave of COVID-19 in India, developing COVID-connect, a voluntary platform linking medical professionals across Australia with NGOs and communities in India.

“I believe that everyone, everywhere should have access to health care, irrespective of geographical boundaries, and to achieve this goal, I collaborate with brilliant colleagues,” said Associate Professor Joshi. 

The majority of people living in rural India lack access to skilled healthcare professionals due to shortage of doctors. Associate Professor Joshi’s innovative research, conducted while working with The George Institute for Global Health, looks at models of care where non-physicians can be trained to provide standardised care. She has led several studies which demonstrate the role of trained non-physicians in delivering health care as part of primary healthcare teams.

Associate Professor Joshi's doctoral research was the first to highlight that chronic diseases like heart attack and stroke were the leading causes of death in rural India. She has collaborated with the Institute for Health Metrics Evaluation to develop Smart Verbal Autopsy technology to help determine probable causes of death where there is no medical record. In 2016, she co-developed and implemented SmartVA for Physicians, an electronic decision support-system to help doctors in Philippines, China and Colombia certify causes of death without medical records.

As a result of COVID-Connect, there has been training of 80 doctors in the prevention and management of COVID-19, and of 600 graduate students in Tamil Nadu who have now educated several hundred families in rural and urban regions of the country. The initiative also led to the provision of preventive and mental health resources to NGOs in India and Nepal during COVID-19.

The winners will be announced at the IABCA Awards Ceremony on 29 April 2022.   

In additional to her appointment at UNSW, Associate Professor Joshi is an Honorary Senior Fellow at The George Institute Australia, Senior Manager at The George Institute India, and a National Heart Foundation Future Leader Fellow – more about her here

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Western Sydney is one of Australia’s fastest growing regions. Shutterstock Western Sydney is one of Australia’s fastest growing regions. Shutterstock

What we found

We analysed 150 local government policies and planning documents, as well as local health district strategies. We also conducted 22 stakeholder interviews across the eight Western Sydney councils.

The good news is each council recognises the importance of addressing climate risk, and demonstrates a strong commitment to implementing sustainability, climate and resilience strategies. While action to mitigate climate change impacts on health and well-being is happening, the strategies are at very early stages.

According to our interviews, there’s a strong desire to do more, and all councils agree emergency preparedness and recovery work must take priority. While a NSW resilience program aims to address this, it doesn’t necessarily align with the unique risks each local community faces.

Acting quickly to move from planning to implementing strategies – such as redesigning buildings to match climate predictions – just isn’t in their capacity. And indeed, councils could not achieve this in time to mitigate the next climate crisis event.

Despite councils receiving money from the NSW government’s disaster assistance funding, they can struggle to pay for recovery from events like flooding. It can take weeks, months, or even years to get local communities back on their feet.

As the councils explained to us, this means already limited funds get pulled away from other work, such as long-term sustainability goals, or simply important day-to-day provisions.

Hawkesbury, Fairfield and Penrith city councils are especially challenged. They experienced the worst flooding in 50 years last March and now face even greater flood alert warnings at Hawkesbury-Nepean River.

State government undermines local decisions

Despite these difficulties, councils consistently told us that the biggest barrier to delivering sustainable, resilient, climate-ready development across Western Sydney was NSW state planning directives.

In the planning system, state policies override local plans and policies. This means local councils often struggle to implement their own strategies.

The result is that pressure from the state government to build more housing developments can undermine local councils’ policies to, for instance, preserve agricultural land and open spaces – measures that protect against flooding.

Indeed, this year’s floods have once again shown how problematic pro-growth agendas and “development for development’s sake” can be.

The recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change makes it clear flooding will increase in scale and frequency, and over-development (part of a problem termed “maladaptation”) will exacerbate the damage it inflicts.

So what needs to change? Our research presents a clear roadmap for local and state government agencies to better prepare.

This includes greater leadership and consistency from the state government, more collaboration between councils and in different levels of government, more capacity-building and more targeted funding.

What’s planned and built today must guarantee the safety, health and well-being of existing and new communities. Giving councils proper resources will help more of us survive in an uncertain future.

The Conversation

Nicky Morrison, Professor of Planning, Western Sydney University and Patrick Harris, Senior Research Fellow, Deputy Director, CHETRE, UNSW Sydney

Patrick Harris, Senior Research Fellow, Deputy Director, CHETRE, UNSW School of Population Health

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.