Tragically, more than 5,000 babies in PNG die before they reach one month of age. Another 1,500 mums don’t survive childbirth each year.
Limited research evidence is available, both internationally and in Papua New Guinea on the most effective ways to improve the quality of maternal and newborn care. Local solutions to these challenges are vital.
Burnet’s innovative flagship research program, Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies (HMHB) is rolling out a new study designed to improve health services, especially antenatal, labour and birth, in East New Britain (ENB) province.
The HMHB Quality of Pregnancy, Childbirth and Newborn Health Services Study, known locally as the ‘Gutpela Sevis’ study, is using a participatory, partnership defined approach to improve quality of maternal and newborn care.
“The first part of this approach is building partnerships and engaging facilities with the project,” Burnet researcher and Public Health Registrar, Dr Alyce Wilson said. “It’s also important to hear their ideas about this approach and data collection, to assess the current quality of care.”
“We have been visiting participating facilities – Nonga General Hospital, St Mary’s Hospital, Kerevat Rural Hospital, Napapar Health Centre, and Malasait – and discussing the study with them. The facilities range from level two community health posts such as Malasait, to Nonga, a tertiary referral hospital, to ensure that we are covering the referral pathway in the province,” Dr Wilson said.
“We will work together to define the changes needed, develop a quality improvement intervention, and test the effectiveness of the intervention by measuring changes in health facility processes or outcomes.”
A key focus of the study is locally planned and led activities to improve health outcomes in PNG and also engaging the expertise of locally based HMHB researchers in Kokopo, ENB as associate investigators.
Burnet Technical Lead PNG and an associate investigator, Dr Stenard Hiasihri explained why the study was needed: “We don’t understand the health seeking behaviours of the community. We need to understand the community’s expectations and experiences at different levels of the health system.”
“This study will provide some new information that we can share with the decision makers to ensure that health services meet the needs of the people.”
HMHB Implementation, Data Quality Assurance Supervisor and Liaison Officer and an associate investigator, Ms Pele Melepia said: “It is important that we involve both large and small facilities in the study. They have different stories to tell and challenges to overcome to achieve quality care.”
“The conversations (we are having with health facilities) makes me think that maybe we are missing something – what small changes will make a difference (to the quality of care provided and experienced)?”
HMHB logistics coordinator and community liaison, Mr Duk Duk Kabiu said: ‘A health facility is more than a building. We need equipment, medicines and competent and friendly staff who create a welcoming space so that the community wants to come.”