New Partnership to Test for Yaws in East Malaita

Yaws is mostly a disease of children who live in poor, rural settings and is usually found in the topics. Solomon Islands reports the second highest number of cases of yaws worldwide (Marks 2015).

A new collaborative research project is being launched by the Atoifi Health Research Group and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in Solomon Islands.

The aim of the project is to develop and pilot a training and quality control package for the use of the DPP-RDT, a new screening test that can distinguish between current and past infection. This may make the test more useful test in clinical practice.

Atoifi Hospital and clinics in the East Malaita catchment area will participate in this project, with health care workers provided with training on the use of the DPP-RDT test. The research team will visit health workers and interview them about their experience of the test.

This project contributes to research capacity strengthening for health workers in rural areas and will generate valuable information about yaws in this part of Solomon Islands.

For more information, please email: Mrs Rowena Asugeni or Dr Michael Marks at

You can read a recent free article about yaws by Dr Marks and colleagues, see:

Photo: Dr Michael Marks with children in Western Province, Solomon Islands

Atoifi Health Research Group features in documentary


This week, a documentary was released that features the recent work of Atoifi Health Research Group on Marovo Island, Western Solomons.

Entitled 'Parasites in Paradise- a soil transmitted helminth survey in Marovo', the documentary records the recent survey of soil-transmitted helminths (STH) conducted in Chea and Sasaghana villages. There is footage of village based research assistants, methods used to conduct the STH survey and interviews with many of the Atoifi Health Research group, including leaders Emeritus Professor Rick Speare, Tropical Health Solutions (THS) Mr Humpress Harrington, Pacific Adventist University (PAU) and Dr David MacLaren, James Cook University (JCU).

The Parasites in Paradise documentary is an excellent description of both the STH survey and the way research capacity strengthening is conducted by the Atoifi Health Research Group. A bonus is the stunning scenery and great music!

Dr David MacLaren of JCU said, "The documentary is also a useful teaching tool for those wanting to learn more about participatory and community-based research in low-resource, tropical environments". He explained, "I have already had the opportunity to share parts of the documentary and discuss with a cohort of PhD candidates, and it was very well received".

To view the documentary for free, visit:

'Parasites in Paradise- a soil transmitted helminth survey in Marovo' was filmed and edited by Ben Speare, of Speare Shot Media and produced by Tropical Health Solutions, in collaboration with Atoifi Health Research Group, Pacific Adventist University and James Cook University.

Speare Shot Media:
Tropical Health Solutions:
Running Time: 54 minutes

A short report of the survey, including findings from the STH screening, is available here:

2016 Greg Urwin Awards Recipients Announced

The news story below was posted by the Pacific Leadership Program about the 2016 Greg Urwin Awards recipients. It features Atoifi's Research Nurse, Mr Hilary Toloka. Congratulations Hillary!

Story via:


Five outstanding Pacific Islanders have been awarded the 2016 Greg Urwin Awards.

The Greg Urwin Awards are an Australian Government-Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) joint initiative. The Awards were established in 2008 to honour the memory and the legacy of the former Secretary General of PIFS and a former Australian High Commissioner to Fiji, Samoa and Vanuatu, the late Mr Greg Urwin.

Funded through the Australian-funded Pacific Leadership Program (PLP), the Awards provide financial support for up to AUD 25,000.00 for outstanding Pacific Island professionals, researchers and emerging leaders. Recipients are funded to undertake a three to six-month placement with a regional organisation or institution that has the potential to contribute to positive development in the region.

More than 20 emerging leaders from the region have completed placements under the Awards. There were more than 45 applications from the region for this round of the Awards.

“The applications we received were of a very high calibre. The Awardees indicated their passion in their respective fields. They also demonstrated that their placements will not only provide them with professional experience but also assist them in developing their leadership capacity and contribute positively to their countries and the region,” said Dame Meg Taylor, PIFS Secretary General and the Chairperson of the Awards Selection Committee.

“The five Awardees have made and are currently making significant contributions to their fields of interest ranging from health research and children’s rights advocacy to sustainable fisheries. We congratulate them and wish them the best in their endeavours.”

The 2016 Greg Urwin Awardees are:

Ms Adi Talanaivini Mafi (Tonga) is a Legal Officer with the Ministry of Justice. Ms Mafi will be based with the Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT) within the Secretariat of the Pacific Community in Fiji to advocate for the rights of children within the Tongan criminal justice system and identify legal provisions that will eradicate legally mandated violence against children.

Mr Hillary Toloka (Solomon Islands) is a Research Nurse based at the Atofi Adventist Hospital in the Solomon Islands. He envisions research and leadership as essential to improving health systems in the Solomon Islands. He will serve his placement at James Cook University in Australia where he hopes to build networks and partnerships between Solomon Islands researchers and international researchers.

Dr Laila Seduadua (Fiji) is a Medical Doctor with postgraduate qualifications in paediatrics. Her area of focus is improving comprehensive care for children with cancer. She will serve her placement with the Christchurch Hospital Oncology Department and hopes that the placement will assist her to establish the Child Cancer Research and Registry for the Pacific.

Ms Zuabe Tinning (Papua New Guinea) is a Program Coordinator in a health program in Morobe Province. She holds a Master’s Degree (Honors) in Public Health and has more than 10 years experience in sexual reproductive health. She is interested in promoting rural indigenous PNG women’s sexual reproductive and general health. She will serve her placement with Morobe Council of Women’s office of Community Development Division.

Mr Melino Bain-Vete (Fiji) is an Environmental Consultant. He holds a Masters of Arts from the School of African and Oriental Studies, University of London. He will be based in the office of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA), Majuro, in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Melino hopes to broaden his expertise in natural resources and to review the PNA’s partnership with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) which identify opportunities to improve the sustainability of tuna resources and increase the contributions of fisheries to the development of the Pacific.

The awards are co-managed by the Pacific Leadership Program and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.

Photo: 2016 Greg Urwin Awards recipients L-R: Dr. Laila Sauduadua (Fiji), Vini Mafi (Tonga), Zuaibe Tinning (Papua New Guinea) Melino Bain-Vete (Fiji) and Hillary Toloka (Solomon Islands)
2016 Greg Urwin Awards recipients L-R: Dr. Laila Sauduadua (Fiji), Vini Mafi (Tonga), Zuaibe Tinning (Papua New Guinea) Melino Bain-Vete (Fiji) and Hillary Toloka (Solomon Islands)

Plans to tackle hookworm in Marovo

The Atoifi Health Research Group recently travelled to to Marovo Island in Marovo Lagoon, Western Province, Solomon Islands to conduct a survey of soil-transmitted helminths (STH) in two villages. Working in Chea and Sasaghana from 3-9 January, 2016 the Group worked with village-based research assistants to identify the extent of gutworm infestation in their communities.

Consistent with the learn-by-doing model of the Group, 26 research assistants had training in the lifecycles and transmission of STH, basic microscopy, identification of STH eggs and larvae, collection and management of samples.

The trainees then put their new knowledge into practice the same week, assisting with the collection and management of samples and identifying STH eggs in samples provided by people from the two villages.

Mr Humpress Harrington, Research Leader and host of the Group in Marovo, said “The knowledge about the transmission cycle of the main parasite found – hookworm – will help inform water and sanitation programs in the two villages.”

Australian researchers Emeritus Professor Rick Speare, Tropical Health Solutions, and Dr David MacLaren, James Cook University were supported by Atoifi-based researchers Mr Humpress Harrington, Mr Esau Kekeubata, Mrs Dorthy Esau and Mr Tommy Esau, and Marovo Island resident Mr Nobo Harrington, all who have extensive research experience as a result of the health research capacity strengthening activities that have been conducted at Atoifi since 2009.

There are plans to return to Marovo to continue to STH research.

“The Chairman of Marovo Island Council of Chiefs invited the Group to do three things”, Mr Harrington explained. “Send back the STH Survey Report as soon as possible to inform water and sanitation options, survey more villages and retest the populations after we have built more toilets.”

As a result of the survey, all residents of the two villages have received deworming medication.

For more information about this research, please contact Mr Humpress Harrington:

Photo: Dr David MacLaren explains how to use the use microscope to research assistants on Marovo Island.

Photo courtesy of Mr Benjamin Speare