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Using data to improve the health of Papua New Guinea’s children

“It is only by understanding disease burdens and examining patient outcomes that we can improve the services we deliver and the health of our communities.”

It is with this sentiment in mind that Paediatric Surveillance Officer, Edilson Yano, carries out his research into the country’s yearly child morbidity and mortality data. Edilson is nurse by training, and completed a Diploma of Public Health in 2015, and a Masters in Public Health in 2017, both supported by the RE Ross Trust Fellowship. Now the coordinator of Papua New Guinea Paediatric Hospital Reporting (PHR) program, Edilson’s work involves recording, monitoring, and analysing data on children’s hospital admissions and deaths.

The Paediatric Hospital Reporting program focuses on electronic data recording for common childhood diseases and quality of care. For Edilson, the program’s most important impact is improving paediatrician’s ability to improve patient care. 

The project is funded by the RE Ross Trust and administered through the Murdoch Children's Research Institute. 

Shifting hospitals from manual to electronic data recording has dramatically reduced the time health workers have to spend generating and finding data. The ability to see live data means paediatricians can now check and improve their treatment plans based on what is happening at that moment, which means better care for their young patients.

The program’s findings also go on to inform recommendations that the program publishes through its Annual Report on Child Morbidity and Mortality. Having quality data from around the country, means the report provides local paediatricians and nurses with locally relevant, evidence-based recommendations for treating and preventing common causes of childhood illnesses and death.

The Paediatric Hospital Reporting program and the Annual Report have been running since 2008 when Professor Trevor Duke and Adrian Hutchinson of the Centre for International Child Health first developed the program. In ten years the program’s coverage has grown to 17 participating hospitals, and in the last 8 years has gathered data on over 150,000 admissions and the outcomes. 

“Our hope is that eventually, every single health facility in PNG will have quality electronic data, accessible to all health staff, so that they can improve the quality of care for children in PNG” says Edilson.

“Right now, we are starting to implement the program in major hospitals. We have also been able to implement the program in several district hospitals in more remote areas through funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. But my ultimate hope is to see the program active across the entire country, supporting research, planning, and timely decision making at the district, provincial, and national level.”

The Annual Report on Child Morbidity and Mortality is produced in collaboration with the Child Health Advisory Committee, PNG National Department of Health; and the PNG Paediatric Society. Production of the report is funded through the RE Ross Trust Fellowship, administered through the Centre for International Child Health at the University of Melbourne Department of Paediatrics and the Murdoch Children's Research Institute.