Burnet welcomes support to address appalling maternal mortality in PNG

Burnet Institute

22 September, 2014

Each year 5,000 babies die in Papua New Guinea in the first month of life. A woman in PNG is 80 times more likely to die in childbirth than in Australia. This appalling rate of maternal and newborn mortality needs to be rapidly addressed.

Burnet Institute, one of Australia’s leading medical research and public health organisations, is responding through the Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies (HMHB) research program. HMHB is a five-year effort aimed at providing life-saving health care for women and children through operational and implementation research in PNG.

Australia’s parliamentarians have shown their support of Burnet’s Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies program, attending a special launch today at Parliament House in Canberra, which was also attended by Papua New Guinea’s High Commissioner to Australia, His Excellency Mr Charles Lepani.

Representing the Australian Prime Minister the Hon Tony Abbott, Assistant Health Minister, Senator the Hon Fiona Nash (pictured above) congratulated Burnet Institute on its innovative program and said the Australian Government strongly supports the evidence-based approach the Burnet Institute will bring to child and maternal health in Papua New Guinea.

“The Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies initiative will help save the lives of many PNG women and children by using research outcomes to drive improvements to health services and programmes,“ she said.

Federal Leader of the Opposition, the Hon Bill Shorten MP also welcomed Burnet’s initiative.

“Burnet Institute’s Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies program is a fantastic demonstration of research, innovation and evidence-based approaches coming together to achieve better health outcomes for people,” he said.

“This is program will enable the most effective interventions to be identified and implemented as quickly as possible and I congratulate the Burnet Institute on its continued ground-breaking work in this area.”

A staggering two-thirds of newborn deaths in PNG could be prevented with basic but effective interventions. The World Health Organization and the National Department of Health in PNG estimates that 98 per cent of maternal deaths each year in PNG are preventable with better and swifter access to quality care.

(Image: The Hon Bill Shorten MP, Ms Chloe Bryce-Shorten, Ms Natasha Stott Despoja AM and Professor Brendan Crabb at the HMHB launch).

Burnet Institute Director and CEO, Professor Brendan Crabb said it was imperative that a research-driven response is supported and implemented in PNG to prevent the needless loss of life.

“Our aim is to profoundly influence national policy to improve maternal and newborn health. To do that we need carefully designed studies in local areas. The results we get can be further tested in wider geographical areas before we see what works for sure on a wider level.

High quality, innovative research is crucial to ensuring that the most effective interventions reach those most in need in PNG in a highly cost efficient way,” he said.

“For Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies to have an impact and save lives we require support across the board, from government, from the philanthropic and business sectors, and the broader community.

Every day, more than 800 women die worldwide from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. In PNG, the maternal mortality rate is more than 500 deaths per 100,000 live births and one woman dies every six hours from pregnancy-related illness.

“We know from our research that women aged 15-49 years in Papua New Guinea have the lowest rates of contraception in the world, and one in seven girls have commenced motherhood by 18 years,” Professor Crabb said.

“Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies will help ensure that they survive childbirth and their children also survive.”

Contact Details

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

Paul Rathbone

Chief of Staff




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