One of the greatest human needs in our region is the appalling level of death and disease among women and children in Papua New Guinea (PNG) writes Dr Michelle Hendel in a special edition of Burnet’s newsletter, IMPACT.
Dr Hendel is the Research Program Manager for the Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies (HMHB) research program which aims at providing life-saving health care for women and children through operational and implementational research.
Below is an excerpt of Dr Hendel’s article which you can view online or or subscribe today!
The rate of maternal and child death is staggeringly high, with a maternal mortality rate that is one of the highest in the world and 100 times that in Australia. Each year in PNG around 1000 mothers lose their lives, mostly from preventable causes.
More than 5000 newborns die each year in PNG, with over a third of these not surviving beyond the first 24 hours, and a further 7,000 children don’t reach their fifth birthday. Two-thirds of these newborn deaths could be prevented with basic but effective interventions.
Health care in PNG has always been challenged by its unique mix of diverse populations, rugged geography and constraints in infrastructure, especially in rural and remote areas.
In most areas, life-saving health services are under-utilised or accessed late. Contributing factors are many, and include physical access difficulties, financial barriers for families, lack of understanding of the need for supervised childbirth, lack of partner support or a preference for traditional childbirth arrangements.
This highlights the vital importance of understanding how best to improve community engagement in the use and provision of maternal, newborn and child health care.
In PNG, maternal mortality and newborn health is further complicated by a complex interaction between the normal state of pregnancy and common diseases that may also be present.
Anaemia, malnutrition, sexually transmitted infections, tuberculosis and malaria are common amongst pregnant women in PNG, with each independently affecting maternal and newborn outcomes.
Both internationally and in PNG, there are serious gaps in our understanding of how these prevalent disease processes interact during pregnancy, and of optimal models of providing and seeking health care in response.
Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies will include five separate but complementary studies to provide a complete overview of the issues being faced. Find out more…