PNG breaks new ground in tuberculosis research

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Image: Deputy Chief Physician (New Guinea Islands), NDoH, Dr Al Maha

The publication of the first compendium of studies on tuberculosis (TB) in Papua New Guinea (PNG) marks a watershed for scientific research in the field and the development of future leaders for the national response to this pressing public health crisis.

Tuberculosis is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in Papua New Guinea (PNG). Major challenges include under-detection of cases, poor treatment outcomes and high numbers of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis in several locations.

PNG’s National Department of Health and National Tuberculosis Program recognise that operational research is fundamental to the enormous challenge of ending TB in PNG.

In 2017-18, the first operational research capacity building program for tuberculosis was implemented in PNG, supported by by the Australian Government through the Tropical Disease Research Regional Collaboration.

Published as a dedicated supplement in the journal Public Health Action, the studies were conducted as part of a special training course to build much-needed operational research capacity in PNG and inform the public response to tuberculosis.

The papers focus on a range of epidemiological, clinical and programmatic implementation aspects of TB in Papua New Guinea and represent findings from the research projects undertaken by participants in the operational research training course implemented by the Burnet Institute, University of PNG and PNG Institute of Medical Research under the stewardship of the National Department of Health.

The authors work in TB in roles ranging from frontline clinicians, laboratory scientists and public health managers from PNG government services, representing the diverse geographical and health service settings from seven provinces in PNG.

This included the three provinces where the National Department of Health is convening an emergency response to multidrug-resistant TB – National Capital District, Gulf Province and Western Province.

“The manuscripts produced from this course highlight important operational issues for the TB program in Papua New Guinea, and collectively represent an extremely valuable resource,” Dr Suman Majumdar, Burnet Deputy Program Director (Health Security), said.

“And the significance of building the operational research capacity of health workers from PNG, who work in the field, who are committed to, live in, and understand their communities and the special problems that TB presents, can’t be overstated.”

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