Addressing health challenges in Papua New Guinea

Burnet Institute

08 June, 2017

Health research in Papua New Guinea (PNG) is uncovering new trends, presenting fresh challenges for scientists, clinicians, policy makers, and public health researchers and advocates in Australia’s nearest neighbour.

Many such challenges were canvassed in recent presentations to Burnet Institute by Dr Willie Pomat, Acting Director, PNG Institute of Medical Research (IMR), and Dr Evelyn Lavu, Director, Central Public Health Laboratories (CPHL), PNG.

In her address entitled “Current and future plans for Central Public Health Laboratories in supporting public health programs; TB, HIV and malaria” Dr Lavu outlined CPHL’s roles in the diagnosis of tuberculosis (TB), malaria and HIV, and quality assurance including training and disease surveillance.

Amidst advances including improved training and new infrastructure, many barriers remain, such as a reluctance in the community to embrace new technologies, including highly effective rapid diagnostic tests (RDT) for malaria.

“When you introduce a new concept, patients and even the clinicians take time to accept new tools,” Dr Lavu said.

“RDTs were introduced in 2012, but today we are still struggling with getting clinicians to believe that a negative result means negative.

“We tell people to use RDTs in conjunction with microscopy to determine the species, but people don’t often do that, and we end up doing more microscopy and getting more false positive results than the actual numbers.”

Dr Pomat told of the general displacement of infectious diseases by non-communicable diseases including cancer and diabetes, as the main causes of death in PNG over the past 25 years.

“These are areas that we currently don’t do very much work on,” Dr Pomat said.

“In conducting research on non-communicable diseases, it’s good that we know how much there is, but what do we do about it, because we do not have the hospitals for the patients to get their diabetes drugs or blood transfusions.

“We need to look at education as the intervention, for people to start living wisely as opposed to binge eating or binge drinking.”

Find out more about the health challenges in PNG by viewing the presentations of Dr Pomat and Dr Lavu (above).

Contact Details

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

Associate Professor Suman Majumdar

Deputy Program Director, Health Security and Pandemic Preparedness; Co-head, Tuberculosis Elimination & Implementation Science; Principal Research Fellow


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