Situation in Brief

Across the health system, Papua New Guinea (PNG) struggles with a chronic shortage of health professionals and the country has some of the poorest health outcomes in the Western Pacific. In February 2014, a new policy came into effect that seeks to provide free primary health care. The central premise of the new policy is to subsidise health facilities with direct payments in place of fees they would have been collected from patients. Donors and NGOs from Australia and New Zealand provide funding and programs for eye health in PNG, though government funding is increasing and local NGOs have emerged. Some areas are now benefiting from upgraded facilities and vision centres. PNG’s National Prevention of Blindness committee meets regularly to discuss issues such as training gaps for mid-level eye workers, and is becoming an effective forum for coordination. In mid 2013 the committee met to review the national eye plan that has been drafted, costed and is fully operational. Primary challenges for PNG pertain to infrastructure and workforce shortages. The evidence base for eye health is also weak, and there is interest from stakeholders in a prevalence survey. Research commissioned by the National Prevention of Blindness Committee in 2015 found that trachoma is endemic in PNG but appears to not have the blinding effects seen in many other countries. The significance of this is unclear, and more research is planned.

Country Statistics

Indicator Value
Population: 7,167,000
Human development index value: 0.491
National Prevention of Blindness Committee active: Yes
National Eye Health Plan Developed: Operational, awaiting endorsement
Cataract surgical rate: 716
Number of ophthalmologists: 6 (18 according to national data)
Blindness prevalence: 3.9% over 50
Main causes of blindness: Cataract, trauma, refractive error, diabetic retinopathy
Total expenditure on health as percentage of total government expenditure: 10.2
Diabetes prevalence: 5.4%
Improved drinking water coverage: 40%
Improved sanitation coverage: 19%
Endemic areas for trachoma: Unknown