Health Life News

5-Year Health Program See Milestones for Maternal Infant Mortality in PNG

Close to 2,000 health workers around the country have enhanced their skills in the area of reproductive health thanks to a unique health training program forged between three partners over a 5-year period.

The Reproductive Health Training Unit (RHTU), funded by the Australian Government, is a public-private partnership (PPP) between the National Department of Health (NDoH), the Australian Government and the Oil Search Foundation (OSF) which has implemented 128 courses in reproductive health for 1,976 health workers across 17 provinces. This exceeded the initial training target by about 350%.

OSF’s Head of Grants, Dr Kevin Miles said: “the success of this program underlines the power of partnerships and the magnitude of what can be achieved by working together to help the government and the people of PNG address some of the most critical health needs.”

With PNG having one of the poorest indicators in maternal and child health in the region, the RHTU program was set up in 2012 and co-funded by the Australian Government and OSF working in partnership with NDoH. Its priority was to upskill health workers in urban and rural areas in Essential and Emergency obstetric care.

Australian High Commission Minister Counsellor, Benedict David said the Australian Government is committed to supporting health outcomes in PNG. “We are proud to be a part of this partnership contributing towards sustainable solutions through the training and upskilling of crucial frontline health professionals in maternal and child health for the people of Papua New Guinea,” he said.

A report from the program stated that the course attendees were “overwhelmingly positive” and reported learning vital lifesaving information during the RHTU courses. Making change in their workplaces sometimes proved difficult, yet changes were observed by the health workers and their managers and a positive shift in attitude was seen among course attendees.

Fourteen per cent of participants had never had any continuing professional development in the last 10 years and half had only received one episode of training. Three packages, Essential Obstetric Care (EOC) course, Emergency Obstetric Care (EmOC) course, and Essential Obstetric Care for Urban Health Centres course, were developed by RHTU and contextualised for PNG and are now available for ongoing use.

Dr Edward Waramin, Acting Manager for Family Health Services at NDoH, praised both partners for working with the government to deliver this vital training program.

He said the NDoH faces an immense challenge trying to deliver basic health services to some of the most challenging places in the country and partners like the OSF and Australian Government keep playing a vital role to help.

“We’re already seeing results of the training and know it will go a long way towards helping our mothers and babies in the rural areas. On behalf of the National Department of Health I wish to thank Oil Search Foundation and the Australian Government for their continued assistance,” Dr Waramin said.

The RHTU objectives were to: establish and implement formal communication and coordination systems for all reproductive health training stakeholders in PNG; develop comprehensive and context-specific training packages in  EOC and EmOC; demonstrate governance, planning and budgeting capacity at national and provincial levels and in training institutions; and increase health workforce capacity to provide quality EOC and EmOC to health workers in partnering provinces and relevant training institutions. The RHTU training program was devised and directed by, Dr Miriam O’Connor who has been commended for her leadership and commitment to the program.

Of those taking part in the training, 816 were community health workers, 562 were nurses, 356 were midwives, 137 were health extension officers and 85 were doctors. Participants came from every province.


Respectful Staff Care: Dr Kevin Pondikou (pictured left) is one of many health workers who has been able to positively influence behaviour change and attitude among other nursing colleagues; towards themselves and when attending to mothers, as a result of having attended the RHTU courses. (Source: OSF) 

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