Papua New Guinea (PNG) is one of the more diverse countries in the world, geographically, biologically, linguistically, and culturally. Communicable diseases are a recognized problem in PNG, with pneumonia, diarrhea, tuberculosis (TB), malaria, newborn infections, and other communicable diseases being responsible for 62% of deaths nationwide. Malnutrition remains a significant contributor to morbidity, mortality, and national economic loss. PNG has the fourth highest rate of stunting in the world because of chronic malnutrition—48% of children experience this deficiency. Malnutrition also contributes to nearly 30% of hospital deaths of children.
In recent years, TB, including drug-resistant TB, has emerged as a public health crisis in PNG. With 432 cases per 100,000 population annually, PNG has the sixth highest incidence rate of TB cases worldwide. Twenty-six percent of these TB cases occur in children, which represents the highest such percentage in the world.
An adequate number of well-trained healthcare workers is essential to address these issues as well as other health priorities in PNG. The country suffers from a severe shortage of doctors, with 0.05 physicians per 1,000 population. By comparison, neighboring Australia has 3.52 doctors per 1,000 population. Additionally, while the national government is recommending at least 300 new doctors to be trained per year, only one medical school, The University of Papua New Guinea School of Medicine and Health Sciences (UPNG-SMHS) exists; it produces approximately 50 doctors per year.