PNG Government recognise potential of VHVs

Burnet Institute

07 March, 2012

Burnet’s Dr Chris Morgan, Andrea Fischer and Kate Michelly recently returned from the first National Village Health Volunteer (VHV) conference in Papua New Guinea.

The conference was organised by PNG’s National Department of Health in response to a Women’s and Children’s Health Knowledge Hub paper published in collaboration with World Vision late last year.

The paper’s focus was on the potential of family and community care to improve maternal, newborn and child health in Papua New Guinea.

Dr Morgan spoke to Radio Australia about the outcomes of the conference saying the PNG Government recognised a few years ago that the maternal death rate is a national emergency.

“There is a ministerial taskforce to address that, including training more midwives but there are things that can be done in the family, at the community level, by Village Health Volunteers,” Dr Morgan said.

Dr Morgan’s estimates that there are between five and 10 thousand VHVs (lay health workers based in rural areas of PNG and often supported by NGOs like World Vision) but he said they could be used more effectively as a bridge between families and the health system.

“It’s pleasing that when we presented the research to government their response was organise the conference as a first step to taking a close look at the potential of VHVS, something that hasn’t been done for around 10 years,” Dr Morgan said.

One of the outcomes of the conference is the establishment of an advisory group to have a look at how the VHV group can be better integrated into the rest of the health system planning – especially to support the National Health Plan in reaching the rural majority in PNG. This means picking up work on national policy and training materials that received a lot of attention from 2000 to 2003, but which has not been as high a priority since then.

Burnet Institute, and other NGOs and church health organisations, are likely to have a continuing role in this group, giving an avenue to help ensure new standards are as evidence-based as possible, and the potential to have a significant impact on maternal, newborn and child health in this country.

Contact Details

For more information in relation to this news article, please contact:

Doctor Chris Morgan

Honorary Senior Principal Research Fellow


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