With more than one million cases of malaria each year, Papua New Guinea (PNG) has a critical need for better prevention, diagnosis and treatment. The Australia-China-PNG Pilot Cooperation on Malaria Control Project was developed to improve diagnosis of malaria. Implemented through Abt Associate’s Health and HIV Implementation Services Provider (HHISP) project, the pilot supports laboratory strengthening and operational research activities. This includes programs to train the staff at teaching facilities on the latest methods for malaria diagnosis and treatment to ensure graduates from these schools have up-to-date skills.
In March 2019, the project provided a three-day malaria refresher course for 32 lecturers from all 16 community health worker schools around the country. The course, held at PNG’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Port Moresby, covered topics such as the status of malaria globally and in PNG, preventative options, diagnosis methods and treatment protocols. The teachers learned that rapid diagnostic tests have proved to be more effective and accurate compared with clinical diagnosis, dispelling a common misunderstanding among health professionals in PNG. Community health workers receive a certificate on completion of the course.
The National Department of Health’s malaria program manager, Leo Makita, believes the training of trainers is an important first step in ensuring early and accurate diagnosis. “The main objective of this refresher is to actually teach our community health workers to diagnose and treat malaria using newer methods,” Mr. Makita said. “Protocols have changed over the years and our frontline health workers must be upskilled.” Following this course, community health worker schools will update their teaching curriculum to include the newest methods of malaria diagnosis and treatment.
Mr. Makita said the project is training two teachers from each of the community health worker schools. The participants included those from some of the most remote locations: Kapuna in Gulf Province, Telefomin in West Sepik and Rumginei in Western Province.
“We see this as better than training community health workers who are already working in their field,” he explained. “It is better that training starts at individual schools so every student graduating from the schools can then apply it when they get into the health centres and hospitals they will be working in.”