The largest nation in the Pacific, PNG, is classified as a low middle-income country. Nearly 87% percent of the population lives in rural areas but access to these widely scattered communities is often difficult and expensive. Violence against women and the achieving of gender equality remain major challenges. The country is a signatory to the United Nations Millennium Development Declaration which requires upgrading of the health status of the PNG population.
The PNG Vision 2050 states that adequately trained doctors and health personnel are essential and should be based in every district in Papua New Guinea. The MPH-HSM program is designed in line with the Papua New Guinea Vision 2050 (Government of Papua New Guinea, 2009) and the PNG Development Strategic Plan 2010-2030 (Government of Papua New Guinea, 2010), which give prominence to human capital development and argue that higher education is crucial for supplying the skilled workforce that is required for the country’s development and that no nation has become prosperous without developing a highly skilled workforce.
Since Public Health is concerned with the promotion and maintenance of health and wellbeing it focusses on populations rather than individuals. Populations are defined by factors such as age, gender, ethnicity, occupation and socio-economic situations. The MPH-HSM program contributes to the Plan by training specialised and qualified public health practitioners to meet the demands of populations in both rural and urban areas in PNG.
This training ensures that public health personnel (who may initially be trained in a variety of fields, including medicine, pharmacy, nursing, health management, environmental health, rural health, human development, and sociology) can work together effectively to provide comprehensive team-based public health practice and formulate and enact public health policies at national and provincial health service level in Papua New Guinea (PNG Government Vision 2050).
The goal of the National Health Plan 2011 – 2020 is to strengthen primary health care and improve health service delivery for the rural majority and urban disadvantaged populations. There is a need for specialised health professionals with advanced knowledge and skills to identify and implement strategies to strengthen a people-centred health system in order to reduce inequity in health care access and health outcomes. The MPH-HSM program contributes to the expressed need to train health professionals with the leadership abilities, knowledge and skills to critically appraise public health issues and identify how to intervene to strengthen people-centred health systems and improve health and wellbeing.
Thus, the overall learning objective of the MPH-HSM program focuses on preparing graduates to identify and appraise strategies to strengthen the people-centred health system at local, district, provincial and national level relevant to improving health outcomes as well as population health and wellbeing. These strategies take into account management approaches in dynamic systems, financing, human resources and their social, epidemiological, cultural, economic and political setting. To accomplish this, the MPH-HSM curriculum is based on a people-centred health systems strengthening approach to critically research health issues and act on appropriate solutions to improve access to health care of rural and urban disadvantaged populations in PNG.
The development of the MPH program aligns with other universities around the globe that provide master degrees in public health with streams in health services management, health promotion, health economics, epidemiology, primary health care and public health research as well as international public health. These universities include Griffith University, James Cook University, Flinders University, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM).