Atoifi contributes to National Health Research Symposium

'Building the foundation for the future’ was the theme for the 1st National Health Research Symposium in Honiara last week, co-hosted by the Research Department of the Ministry of Health and Medical Services, Solomon Islands National University (SINU) and James Cook University (JCU).

From Monday 27th to Wednesday 29th November, 2017 over 100 researchers, policy makers and health workers gathered at SINU in Honiara to listen to 27 present research activities/findings and exchange ideas.

Mr Hillary Toloka, Research Nurse from Atoifi presented findings about the community treatment of yaws and scabies in East Kwaio, Mr James Asugeni presented 'Incorporating Sociocultural Beliefs in Mental Health Services in Kwaio, Solomon Islands', while Mr Kenny Motoa presented his research being conducted about nurses' knowledge of hand hygiene at Atoifi Hospital.

Mrs Helen Oloifana-Polosovai, Medical Laboratory Scientist from Atoifi Hospital (pictured with Mrs Dorothy Esau, AHRG Research Worker) won an Award of Excellence for her presentation of 'The Prevalence of Malaria Infection in Pregnant women in Malaita Island.[Solomon Islands] 2006-2010 and 2012-2016' - congratulations Helen!

Eleven of the researchers presenting were from the JCU Tropical Partners program, who had attended a research training workshop at Atoifi in September.

On Wednesday 29 November, a popular workshop about GIS mapping for health was conducted, while the AHRG presented a day-long workshop on research design and methodology.

Ms Fred Pitakaka, Chief Research Officer of the Ministry of Health stated, "In Solomon Islands, health research activity has been modest due to limited resources and capacities". She went on to explain that there is "a gradual increase of emerging local researchers as compared to previous years. This indicates the increasing capacity of MHMS workforce to conduct health research relevant to local health issues".

The participants celebrated the success of the Symposium with a dinner and presentation of awards on Wednesday night. Mr Michael Larui, National Head of Nursing, MHMS reminded guests of the Atoifi Health Research Group's mantra, 'small is beautiful': small, locally-driven research about local health issues can make a positive difference for improved health for all.

For more information about the Symposium, please email Ms Freda Pitakaka: freda.pitakaka[at]

For more information about the work of Atoifi Health Research Group, please email Mr Humpress Harrington: humpress.harrington[at]

Atoifi Group members enhance infectious diseases research across the Pacific

Atoifi Health Research Group members Mr Humpress Harrington and Dr David MacLaren are leading research capacity strengthening activities across the Pacific to mitigate and manage infectious diseases. Group members Dr Peter Massey and Dr Michelle Redman-MacLaren are also mentoring Research Fellows to develop important research skills. These activities are part of a large DFAT-funded project that will help minimise the spread of infectious disease in the Indo-Pacific.

The story below was first published by AITHM at James Cook University.

The Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine (AITHM) at James Cook University (JCU) has been awarded a $1.8M research grant to work towards building tropical partnerships and strengthening health system responses to infectious disease in the Indo-Pacific.

This major tropical disease research initiative, announced by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Julie Bishop MP, and funded through the Department of Foreign Affairs Trade’s newly announced Indo-Pacific Centre for Health Security, will respond to infectious diseases such as Zika and TB in the region and strengthen local-level capacity to undertake surveillance and respond to emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases.

Led by Professor Emma McBryde, a world leading TB clinician and researcher, the partnership includes a team of experienced and multidisciplinary researchers at JCU, other Australian universities, and regional partners in the Indo-Pacific region.

Together, the research team will provide expertise and build capacity in Indo-Pacific countries for risk reduction and management of health risks that help the countries meet their International Health Regulation and national health security requirements in surveillance and response, laboratory capacity, planning and governance to prevent disease threats.

“One major element of this grant is that we will work with partners in Papua New Guinea (PNG) to strengthen local capacity to detect, treat and prevent cases of TB, map the public health systems activities and help them to address any gaps with regard to the International Health Regulation requirements,” Professor McBryde said.

This project aims to provide the Indo-Pacific region with a stronger health system surveillance and response capacity to support timely, effective responses to emerging and existing infectious disease threats.

“The project will deliver a consortium of institutes in Australia and the Indo-Pacific region that can provide innovative tools for policy evaluation and decision support, research mentorship, workforce development, continual quality improvement and mutual learning.

“Using modelling techniques, we’ll be able to identify the risk of endemic spread or cross-border infection, this data will then inform the best ways to address TB on a country-specific basis.

“We’ll also provide enhanced Zika surveillance and responses in the Solomon Islands and identify control activities to avoid the rapid and devastating impacts of these emerging infectious diseases,” Professor McBryde said.

Australia’s Ambassador for Regional Health Security, Blair Exell said that this project was a demonstration of Australia’s commitment to improve health security in the Indo-Pacific.

“Collaborations and partnerships such as this are essential in delivering health security in our region.

“Well supported research will strengthen health systems and capacities in our region to mitigate and manage infectious disease threats”, Mr Exell said.

AITHM Director, Professor Louis Schofield said that this grant supports AITHM’s role in tackling some of the world’s biggest health challenges facing the Tropics.

“Australia’s northern borders are highly susceptible to infectious diseases such as Zika and TB, and they pose a huge burden on Tropical regions, including Australia’s near neighbours.

“AITHM is on the front foot in the face of these threats and this grant builds on AITHM’s reputation for leadership in the field of Tropical health and medicine,” Professor Schofield said.

Original story here:$1.8m-funding-to-tackle-tb,-zika-and-other-infectious-diseases

For more information about the role of Atoifi Health Research Group members, email:

Photo: Lead Investigators and Project Team, including Mr Humpress Harrington and Dr David MacLaren; photo via @AITropHealthMed

Director of Australian Museum visits Kwainaa`isi Cultural Centre

by Tommy Esau, Research Worker

On 19 August, Dr. Rebecca Johnson the Director of the Australian Museum Research Institute accompanied by Dr. Tyron Lavery from the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, USA and Dr. David Maclaren from James Cook University and members from the Kwaio community walked an epic but spectacular 8 hours walk to visit the Kwainaa`isi Cultural Centre in the Kwaio mountains. The trip was to see the Cultural Centre and meet with communities about health and conservation programs in the mountain.

The visit was significant and demonstrate the partnership and commitment that Kwainaa`isi and the Australian Museum had established over the past 2 years on conservation, local Cultural knowledge about plants and animals and their Cultural school. During the stay at the Cultural Centre, Kwainaa`isi put on a remarkable day proudly celebrating the strong culture of the people of Kwaio. Various activities were displayed includes: shell money making, weaving baskets, combs, making bamboos inti different musical instruments like `au (panpipe), `aa`imae (chanting with bamboo sticks about historical music) and gigilo (stamping bamboos).

The day ended with celebrations of binubinu (group dancing) and feasting. Rebecca expressed that she was excited and privileged to witness the event for the first time in her life. She stated that it is important to maintain the important and unique cultural traditions which have been lost in many parts of the world. “I’m happy to see that you keep your culture, land, plants and animals which is very important”.

Part of Rebecca’s visit to was to meet with the chiefs, leaders and members of the Kwainaa`isi to discuss about the Cultural School and the conservation program. With the support of Rebecca and the Australian Museum team, the Kwainaa`isi Cultural school now has three teachers to teach basic numbers, reading, writing and Kwaio Language. In addition, 12 instructors teach different aspects of Kwaio culture and customs such as music, arts and history for five days a week.

The discussion also highlighted some positive feedback and outcomes about the conservation program. The work is progressing well and many community leaders have supported the work because it has been benefiting the communities, both their environment and income to support their families. Many leaders and chiefs have expressed that the work of teaching and maintaining our culture and customs was our longtime dream. Land is our mother and our culture and custom is who we are.

During the trip, a three day training workshop in GPS mapping, camera traps, setting nets for bats was conducted by Tyron Lavery to establish conservation strategies for Kwainaa’isi, Kafurumu and Aifasi conservation areas. Training demonstrated how to take photos of captured cats for comparisons to camera trap images. Rangers patrol the conservation areas on a regular basis for illegal activities, such as hunting and forest exploitation.

As part of the training, a first conservation area `Eriani Kwete in Kwainaa`isi was mapped. Monthly checks will start in September. Rangers agree to check camera traps on every first day monthly. The local rangers were excited about the conservation strategy and new knowledge and skills gained that would be useful for their future work through a participative approach.

We thank the Australian Museum for recognizing our dreams and desires. We wish that this collaboration continued well into the future, so this important work can be recognized and carried forward by our younger generations.

For more information about the health and conservation work at Kwainaa`isi Please contact Mr. Tommy Esau at or Dr. David Maclaren at

Second Health Research Symposium held at Atoifi, Solomon Islands

by Hillary Toloka, Research Nurse, Atoifi Hospital

Health researchers from across Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, England, Switzerland and Australia gathered at Atoifi Hospital on Tuesday 15 August to attend the 2nd Atoifi Health Research Symposium. The 72 participants included community leaders, staff nurses, student nurses, probationer nurses and administrative leaders of Atoifi Hospital. Invited guests from both the Ministry of Health and Medical Services in Honiara and Provincial Health in Kuluufi Hospital, Malaita Province also attended. Our research partners from James Cook University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine along with Research Fellows from different Provinces in Solomon Islands and from Papua New Guinea also attended.

Research presentations included detection and treatment of yaws and syphilis, malaria in pregnancy, infection control, patient satisfaction at Atoifi Hospital, and impact of scabies treatment with ivermectin on the prevalence of headlice in the Solomon. A reproductive health presentation about the use of Jandelle implants was delivered, and research findings about community perceptions on skin disease were reported.

Acting Chief Executive Office of Atoifi Hospital, Ms Rowena Asugeni, presented about research capacity building for health research and Mr Humpress Harrington presented a session entitled, 'Developing local models to strengthen and improve capacity in health research in Melanesia'.

Participants attending the Symposium expressed that it was an “eye opener” to attend such a well organised symposium in a remote setting like Atoifi Hospital, East Kwaio. A wonderful mixture of presentation both from Nurses and the Community researchers were reminded by research leaders that anybody can do research and that this Symposium went someway to involving a variety of community and health workers in health research.

Local community leaders who attended the Symposium expressed their gratitude for being part of the Symposium, they were impressed to see the real research data presented by local researchers. One community leader expressed that he was pleased to be informed about what was happening in his community and to learn what measures could be taken to improve health. Local community leaders also expressed their willingness to support the research work in their communities in the future.

For more information about health research being conducted by the Atoifi Health Research Group, please email or

Photo (courtesy David MacLaren): Some of the participants at the 2nd Atoifi Health Research Symposium