School of Population Health

Dr Adam Craig, Infectious Disease Epidemiologist

Image Adam CraigDr Adam Craig is the Deputy Director of the Bachelor of International Public Health program, a Lecturer in Global Health, and a researcher focusing on novel disease outbreak early warning surveillance systems suitable for small island developing states, such as Pacific Island nations. Adam joined the School of Population Health in 2017, bringing 16 years of field epidemiology experience, almost a decade of those spent working in Asia and the Pacific Islands.

In 2009, amidst the influenza pandemic that year, Adam found a role as an epidemiologist with the World Health Organization (WHO)’s regional office in Manila, supporting the organisation and national governments in the region to upscale emergency surveillance and response systems in response to the threat. This experience lay the foundation for almost a decade of international work with agencies including UNICEF, the World Bank, the WHO, Abt Associates, the United Nations Development Programme, the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and directly with a number of national governments.

In responding to COVID-19, Adam has been seconded to NSW Health and is a team leader in the Operations part of the Public Health Emergency Operations Centre (PHEOC).

To tackle COVID-19, you’re working with NSW Health and serving as a team leader in operations at the PHEOC. In practical terms, what does this look like?

In practical terms, this role involves working with an amazing team that manages all the COVID-19 clusters - think Ruby Princess, nursing home clusters, wedding clusters, etc. It also responds to immediate operational needs that arise, for example–how do you get a sick person off a cruise ship at sea? How do we manage the health needs of returned travelers stuck at the airport? How do we track down a case that has gone AWOL? How do we work with other jurisdictions?

What else are you working on at the moment?

Besides COVID-19 and teaching, I have two research projects on the go. The first is exploring the feasibility of a citizen science-based model of vector surveillance in Honiara, Solomon Islands. Citizen science models of mosquito surveillance are being trialled to detect the presence and risk posed by the vectors of dengue, malaria, and several other mosquito-borne diseases. This includes an initiative that will look at engaging high school students in trapping and data collection as part of their senior projects.

The second project is an Asia Pacific Health Observatory funded project that is looking at the utility of digital health to address barriers to universal health coverage in less developed Pacific Island countries. This work will produce guidance to Pacific island policy makers to support the prudent adoption of digital health technologies to address Universal Healthcare Coverage (UHC) issues.

Results so far have shown that harnessing the capital of populations is an effective and efficient way to do surveillance in severely resource-constrained settings.

Why is your research and work in public health important to you? What motivates you?

My work is important to me because I want to make a meaningful difference to people’s health and help to tackle inequity. Public health is people-centred and has social justice at its core. It’s about thinking big and about systems of change. In short, public health is about making things better for everyone.

Do you have any advice for those considering a career in public health research?

That if you are a big picture thinker, if you are excited by the idea of working in the space where science, politics, psychology, sociology and history meet, and if you want to make a real difference in the world, then public health is for you.

What practical skills can students learn from public health and infectious disease programs at the School, especially in response to COVID-19?

People can learn the practical technical skills required at any institution. What the school offers is a staff with a depth of practical, field-based knowledge that is second to none. This is what, in my view, makes teaching live.