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

Training for in-depth interviewing and focus group discussions

By Tommy Esau, Research Officer

A two-day Research Capacity Strengthening Workshop was held at Atoifi Adventist Hospital during December, 2015. The Workshop focused on research skills – specifically in-depth interviewing and focus group discussions. The sessions on facilitating individual interviews and focus group discussions were described by Chief John Wakageni RN, Coordinator for the Women and Tuberculosis project, as “important and useful tools to improve our research skills.”

The Workshop was facilitated by Dr David MacLaren and Professor Rick Speare, senior public researchers from Australia. The Workshop sessions were run twice each day, with morning sessions mostly in Pijin and evening sessions mostly in English. Practical sessions were held in the afternoons with a focus on in-depth interviewing using examples from a current Women and TB Project.

Participants of the Workshop included Atoifi Hospital and Pacific Adventist University –Atoifi campus staff and students, community leaders and Kwaio chiefs. Despite many Hospital staff and students being on holiday and community leaders busy with preparation for Christmas, there was still strong attendance at the Workshop sessions.

The Atoifi Health Research Group, led by Dr David MacLaren and Professor Rick Speare, also ran training on research management. The Group reviewed 2015 research projects and planned for 2016 projects. This included plans for a survey of soil-transmitted helminths (STH) to be conducted in January 2016 in Marovo, Western Province, Solomon Islands.

Other WHO TDR-funded Research Workshops and a Symposium were planned for 2016. The Group reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen research capacity by conducting health research in Solomon Islands to enable a Pacific Islands approach to understanding health issues affecting Pacific Islands communities.

For more information about the Atoifi Health Research Group, please visit: or email

Photos: Practical and planning sessions with: (L) the Women and TB project team, and (R) the STH research team.

East Kwaio villages host James Cook University students

By Tommy Esau, Research Worker

Five Sports and Exercise Science (SES) students from the Cairns campus of James Cook University (JCU) have just returned after a successful two week trip to Solomon Islands. Led by Dr Glen Deakin and Dr David MacLaren of JCU, and supported by videographer Mr Benjamin Speare, this second visit built on partnerships established last year with the villages of Na’au and Abitona, East Kwaio, Solomon Islands.

This year five students, along with Dr Glen and Ben Speare were hosted by Abitona village and worked in both Na’au and Sifilo villages. The SES students facilitated training sessions, including for soccer and volleyball. In addition, SES students and lecturers conducted speed and agility testing.

In 2014, the JCU SES team had observed children from Solomon Islands had great agility and speed. Dr Glen said. “This year we wanted to do a test on the speed and the agility of children, as well as young adults and compare results to children and young adults of similar age in Australia.”

During testing, SES students discovered there are number of children and young adults with extreme speed and agility that, with proper training, could excel. These findings will be reported back to villagers and more broadly.

Overall, the trip was a great success. A senior student, Paul Inglis said, “I was pleased to return to East Kwaio after my first visit last year. The people are friendly and learning about the culture, language and the environment is a great experience”.

A woman village leader, Genimala Snider added, “It is indeed a blessing having JCU Sport and Exercise Science students in Abitona village, and we look forward to continuing this long-term relationship well into the future.”

In a meeting with the community leaders, Dr Glen reaffirmed his commitment to a strong partnership with the villages in East Kwaio with a focus on sport and exercise, health and fitness, community development and responding to health needs.

Leaders from the villages of Canaan and Ogou have also expressed their interest for similar training and programmes in their communities. Thanks to a successful New Colombo plan grant, the visits to Solomon Islands by JCU Sport and Exercise Science students will continue for at least the next three years.

This activity complements the ongoing program of public health research through the Atoifi Health Research Group that pro-actively responds to health needs of village people in East Kwaio.

For more information, please email: or

A free book chapter 'Triathlon in the Tropics – South Pacific Style' can be found here:

Photo: JCU staff and students in Abitona village

Women fight TB in East Kwaio

Story by Tommy Esau, Research Worker

For the last two months (September and October, 2015) a tuberculosis (TB) team from the Atoifi Health Research Group has worked in several coastal and mountain communities in East Malaita, Solomon Islands. The team led by Chief John Wakageni, RN, Coordinator for Women and TB project, also includes Chief Esau Kekeubata, Dorothy Esau and Grace Alaka (both TB Community Officers) and Tommy Esau (Research Worker). The TB team have visited TB hotspots including Jordan in the Kwaibaita Valley and Kwainaa ‘isi and Kafurum villages in the East Kwaio mountains.

The three day visit to Kwaibaita valley was a highlight for the team. This is the first time the whole team were together. Grace Alaka, TB Community Officer from Namolaelae village, is a key person to the success of our work. The team were able to meet with several communities including Namola ‘ela ‘e community, Namola’ela’e clinic, Obona ‘eru, Goulo, Jordan clinic and the other smaller communities at Kwaibaita valley. The team talked with women and men about the TB, and begin sharing ideas about how women, family and community can care for people with TB. The good things and the challenges of TB were explored, as were ways health services and the community could better support women who live with TB, or who are caring for someone with TB.

Many people expressed positive feedback to the TB team. A group from Jordan community have committed to a “New Start”! To support individual and families with TB, including those who are admitted to Atoifi Hospital. The leader of the community, Mr Isafi, challenged everyone by saying, “that in order to help fight TB in East Kwaio, the health services, communities, church leaders, chiefs, families and individuals need to work closely together.” He went on to say that people with a chronic cough need to come and get checked at the clinic, and have their sputum tested.

In the village-level discussions, families and communities identified the following challenges: long distances to clinics and Hospital, not enough support and care from the community, family not happy with women being away from home (for treatment), food security and financial limitations.
Nurses and health workers also conducted an Outpatient clinic in each of the three villages, where they saw over 70 patients. A total of seven patients provided sputum which was smeared, fixed and given to Atoifi Hospital laboratory staff to screen for TB. Training was also provided by John Wakanegi to the members of the TB team on how to smear and fix TB sputum.

Grace Alaka will continue with the work with villagers in Kwaibaita Valley, assisted by two nurses from Namolaelae clinic. Dorothy Esau and the other members of the team will continue to work with villagers who live in coastal areas near Atoifi Hospital, and in Kwainaa’isi and Kafurum in the mountains.

For the next two months, the TB team, along with Advisory Group members, will collate the shared TB stories and plan a series of short videos. These videos will be used to increase awareness and inform the health services how to support for women who are dealing with TB in East Malaita and around Solomon Islands.

For more information about TB in Solomon Islands, read Massey et al (2015):

For more information about this Women and TB project, please email Rowena Asugeni or Peter Massey

We are most grateful to the Australian Respiratory Council who continue to generously support TB prevention and treatment in Solomon Islands.

Photos (1) (L-R): Grace Alaka, Dorothy Esau, John Wakagani, and Tommy Esau
Photo (2) John and the team with community members discuss TB; the TB team in East Kwaio