Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Australia Awards alumna Dr Anuji Gamage has been extensively involved in promoting effective healthcare practices and applying measures to prevent the spread of the virus in Sri Lanka.
Anuji completed a Master of Health Economics and Policy at the University of Adelaide in 2015 with the support of an Australia Awards Scholarship. Little could she have foreseen that just a few years later, she would be applying her learnings in her own workplace, the General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University. When two of her fellow employees contracted the coronavirus, she was assigned to manage the outbreak at the University using public health approaches. She helped in developing guidelines to limit the virus’s spread and undertook site visits to check that preventive health measures were in place. She also undertook patient contact tracing and worked closely with area preventive medical staff to ensure adherence to safety policies
Looking back, Anuji believes that her Australia Awards experience laid the foundation for her growing expertise in health economics and healthcare financing.
“The knowledge, research, analytical thinking and writing skills that I gained from my Australian education, has been instrumental in adding the much-needed healthcare financing and health economics perspective to the agenda,” she says.
She sees an important role for such skills in healthcare in her home country.
“In Sri Lanka, a gap exists in economic evaluations, cost-of-illness studies, adequate assessment of health technologies, and monitoring healthcare financing trends and predictions, which is a significant challenge,” Anuji says. “Informed science is essential to healthcare policy decision-making. Evidence generates information to act upon and theories to contemplate, and thereby contributes to developing knowledge vital in healthcare policy and decision-making.”
With this in mind, Anuji has been actively publishing research papers to share her knowledge and findings. Throughout 2020, Anuji supported the COVID-19 response and recovery efforts through various initiatives.
In her capacity as a Public Health Specialist, Economist and aresearcher, Anuji has also analysed the cost-effectiveness of conducting face-to-face meetings versus virtual meetings, to guide policymakers.
As the President of the Sri Lanka Association of Australia Awards Alumni (SLAAAA), in 2020, Anuji organised a health camp and a workshop on entrepreneurship for International Women’s Day to empower rural women.
Speaking recently at the Sri Lanka Medical Association webinar ‘Quarantine Policy in Sri Lanka: Appraisal following Vaccination’, Anuji continues to share her expertise. At a webinar organised by the Staff Development Centre at the General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University, she also spoke about how to prevent the third wave of COVID-19.
“What works in one country cannot be directly applied to another. Research is an integral component in science and more so in health as it rapidly evolves.,” Anuji says. “ Evidence-based decision-making is essential and health providers can capitalise on this in managing patients or serving the community.” She adds, “Through research, I hope that all scientists across boundaries generate science-informed decisions.” I believe that it’s our response to any crisis that defines who we are and how we survive.”