Burnet Institute Chair, Robert Milne visits PNG

Tracy Parish

17 September, 2015

Just getting to and from Kokopo in East New Britain in Papua New Guinea was an experience in itself. After flying to Brisbane for an overnight stop, then on to Port Moresby, our connecting flight to Kokopo was cancelled requiring an overnight stay, cutting short our stay in Kokopo by a day.

After being met by some of the team from our Kokopo office, we visited a village where the Ward representative (village elder) Gregory and Mary, a volunteer, explained how the malaria program, funded by The Global Fund, operates.

Our team, led in Kokopo by Hadlee Supsup has recruited 100 local volunteers, equipped them with point-of-care malaria test kits, trained and supervised them in their use, and dispensed the antimalarial, Malar1. The outcomes are proving very beneficial, including early diagnosis and treatment for malaria, referral to health centres for people with continued fever (pneumonia, bronchitis etc), and a great sense of commitment and pride from the local volunteers and their supporters.

Visiting HMHB site at Paparatava Health Clinic just outside Kokopo.

Our Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies (HMHB) program, which is a major Burnet initiative, is funded totally from philanthropic donations and led by Professor James Beeson. Dr Michelle Scoullar is leading the project in Kokopo, assisted by a wonderful team of employees who have been recruited from the local communities. We are working in close collaboration with the PNG Department of Health, Kirby Institute, St Mary’s Hospital, and local hospitals and health centres. Community involvement is critical to our success.

The driver for the HMHB program is the extremely poor health outcomes for mothers and their babies in the antenatal and postnatal stages. Using strong scientific principles the program is identifying the prime causes of these adverse outcomes and will lead to the development of new interventions to improve the health of these communities.

HMHB researcher conducting a one-month post delivery check on mum and baby.

The scale and complexity of the program are massive. Dr Scoullar and her team are recruiting a cohort of 700 women, testing them at five stages of their pregnancy from first identification through to delivery, then one month, three months, six months and twelve months after birth. Samples, including blood and urine are processed, recorded and analysed in a specially fitted-out Burnet laboratory at St Mary’s Hospital. Some samples are sent to other labs for further testing and reference samples are sent to Burnet’s Melbourne laboratories for safekeeping at -80C conditions.

My congratulations are extended to everyone involved in this Burnet flagship program, especially the tremendous support provided by our donors.

Contact Details

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

Tracy Parish

Executive General Manager, Marketing and Communications




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