Chief Esau inspires theme of World Conference on Planetary Health

‘The health of people relies on the health of the planet’ was the key message at the 23rd World Conference on Health Promotion in Rotorua, Aotearoa New Zealand in April 2019.

Atoifi Health Research Group members Chief Esau Fo`ofafimae Kekuabata, Associate Professor David MacLaren and Dr Michelle Redman-MacLaren attended the four day event and were a part of the 1600 people who endorsed the commitment to the waiuro: healthy land healthy people Statement.

The theme of this 2019 World Conference was influenced by Chief Kekeubata. Chief Kekeubata gave a keynote address at the 2007 World Health Promotion Conference in Canada, where he described how land (wado) is fundamental to physical, social and spiritual health. Mr Sione Tu'itahi, Co-Chair of the 2019 Organising Committee of the IUHPE conference was present at this 2007 presentation, and was impressed. Mr Tu'itahi and colleagues then took this as their theme and emphasised the importance of land, social connectedness and traditional knowledge for health of people and the planet in the Aotearoa New Zealand Conference. Known as planetary health, this approach reflects traditional Pacific understandings of holistic health and well-being.

Maori leaders from Aotearoa New Zealand, along with Pacific leaders and indigenous delegates from across the globe shared how land, social connectedness and traditional knowledge is fundamental to human health in the context of their natural environments.

Members of the Atoifi Health Research Group are involved in a range of community, conservation and human health projects in East Malaita. Research Reports, articles, videos and booklets can be found at:

For more information, please contact:

Photo (courtesy Michelle Redman-MacLaren): Chief Esau Fo`ofafimae Kekuabata and Associate Professor David MacLaren in Rotorua

What is causing our fevers? A new study from Solomon Islands

In the past, everyone in remote areas of Solomon Islands who had a fever and no other obvious signs or symptoms was treated for malaria. With improved testing we now know that a lot of people with fever do not actually have malaria. The next logical question was therefore – what is causing these fevers? This is exactly the question being asked at Atoifi.

After 6 months of careful planning and preparation, the Atoifi Health Research Group conducted a study to answer the simple question – what infectious agents are causing fevers in the people who live in or around Atoifi? The team tested 418 people who lived on the Atoifi campus and in three surrounding villages. Tests were conducted for malaria, and also dengue virus, zika virus, chikungunya virus and Ross River virus. All four of these viruses are spread by mosquitoes, so the Atoifi team invited mosquitoes experts from the Ministry of Health to identify what type of mosquitoes are in and around Atoifi.

Testing for malaria was done immediately in the villages. About 10% of people tested positive for malaria – all received medication on the same day. Blood was then taken to the Atoifi Hospital laboratory and frozen. The frozen blood was then sent to James Cook University in Australia to be tested for the 4 viruses. Interestingly the Ministry of Health team found the type of mosquito that can spread all 4 of these viruses. The team is therefore looking forward to the results from the testing at James Cook University to answer the question – what infectious agents are causing fevers in the people who live in or around Atoifi?

More results soon!

For more information about this study please contact Humpress Harrington

Photo: Mr Humpress Harrington and team testing for mosquito-borne viruses in an East Kwaio village
Story by: A/Professor David MacLaren

Developing local models to strengthen health research in Solomon Islands

Mr Humpress Harrington, former Head of Atoifi campus of Pacific Adventist University is currently undertaking a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) at James Cook University, Cairns, Australia. As a Foundation member of the Atoifi Health Research Group, Humpress is passionate about indigenising models of health research. Humpress’s PhD study is exploring local models to improve health research capacity that suit Melanesia.

Below Humpress shares with us about his recent trip to Solomon Islands. He interviewed 48 government officials, politicians, people working in higher education and people who had undertaken higher degree research or other research training in health-related fields.

Humpress, can you tell us a little about your recent trip to Solomon Islands?
During December I am usually on holiday in Western Province with my family. However this December was special, as I travelled from Australia to Solomon Islands for a data collection trip. I started interviewing colleagues in Gizo at the end of December – I even interviewed some colleagues on the 25th while others were enjoying themselves celebrating Christmas day! After a brief visit to my home village (Chea in Marovo Lagoon) to see my parents, I boarded the MV Andjanet and sailed to Honiara. Because of the cyclonic conditions, a ten hour journey took us almost two days! Once in Honiara, I continued to conduct interviews people. I then travelled to Atoifi, in East Kwaio, Malaita to interview people there. I interviewed 48 people during my time in Solomon Islands.

What were the most surprising things you learnt from the people you interviewed?
It is very interesting to learn that research is something not very many people know about or understand. This limited knowledge of health research and its potential benefits to institutions and the health system indicates a need to encourage locally appropriate health research training in Solomon Islands. Despite people’s limited knowledge about research, individual interest to learn how to conduct research is very high. Another surprising thing was that the provision of relevant and high quality research training that is directly suitable for Solomon Islands is something that nobody has really taken very seriously in the past. Finally, there are currently no tools available to adequately measure the impact or outcomes of the health research training that Solomon Islanders have undertaken so far, either in-country or overseas.

What are your next steps?
My next step is to prepare for my PhD Confirmation Seminar at JCU, which will take place in February 2019. I will then transcribe and analyse the data I have collected. This analysis will inform next set of interviews I will conduct during my next trip to Solomon Islands in March/April. After that I will complete data analysis on all of the interviews and write up my findings. These findings will be reported in a series of presentations and publications in Solomon Islands and Australia.

Humpress Harrington is studying his PhD at the College of Medicine and Dentistry, James Cook University supervised by Associate Professor David MacLaren, Professor Sarah Larkins and Professor Maxine Whittaker. If you would like more information about this research, please email:

Photo (supplied by H. Harrington): Humpress (right of engine) travelling in East Kwaio with colleagues
Story: by Michelle Redman-MacLaren, with Humpress Harrington

Infection Control study at Atoifi Adventist Hospital gets underway

Data collection for the study “Improving infection control at Atoifi Adventist Hospital, Solomon Islands: A participatory action research approach” commenced at Atoifi in October 2018. This study uses a technique called ‘Photovoice’. This technique involved health workers, cleaners, cooks and maintenance staff at the hospital taking photos in response to the statement; “From your perspective, how does sickness pass from one person to another at Atoifi Hospital?” All of the photos were downloaded onto a computer, printed and laminated.
People were then asked to select a few of the best photos that had the most meaning. They were asked to talk about their photos using the acronym PHOTO as a guide.
P = Describe your Picture
H = What is Happening in your picture?
O = Why did you take a picture of this?
T = What does your picture Tell us about your role in the hospital?
O = How can this picture provide Opportunities to improve infection control at Atoifi Adventist Hospital?
The stories behind each photo will be analyzed to help understanding issues around infection control at the hospital. When this is complete further workshops will discuss what can be done to improve infection control at the hospital.

Thank you to the staff that participated and also to the hospital administration for supporting this research.

Vanessa Sparke
Lecturer, Nursing and Midwifery
James Cook University, Cairns Campus
Queensland, Australia

Photo: Becky Ngatulu, Daisy Fatalaea and Hemaema Toloka looking at the photos and deciding on the ones they want to discuss in the interview.

Photo supplied by Vanessa Sparke.