Women’s experience of TB in Solomon Islands

This week a team from the Atoifi Health Research Group were privileged to visit Namolaelae village in Kwaibaita valley, Kwara'ae, Malaita, Solomon Islands. The focus of the visit was to start talking with women and men about tuberculosis (TB).

A new project, funded by the Australian Respiratory Council, has been launched this month to support women who have TB and/or who care for family members with TB. Women are diagnosed with TB less often than men in Solomon Islands. This project will explore new ways of supporting women with TB and women as carers. Using this information, communities and health workers will develop practical ways to support family members on TB treatment.

A small series of DVDs will be produced to help increase awareness and support for women who are dealing with TB in Solomon Islands.

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

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

Research training for Solomon Islands by Atoifi researchers

By Tommy Esau, Research Worker

A four-day research workshop, ‘Getting Started in Research’ was held last week (3-6 August) at Atoifi Adventist Hospital. It was facilitated by Mr Humpress Harrington, Mrs Rowena Asugeni and Mr Alwin Muse, health research group leaders from Solomon Islands. In addition, Mr Lester Asugeni, Senior Lecturer from Pacific Adventist University in PNG also helped facilitate the workshop. Senior public health researchers from Australia, Professor Rick Speare and Associate Professor Peter Massey travelled to Atoifi to support the workshop. The research workshop was described by Professor Speare as a ‘significant direction’ because this was the first research workshop wholly run by Atoifi based researchers. The workshop was a demonstration of the successful research capacity strengthening that has been ongoing since the first research workshop in 2009.

Ninety participants including health professionals, teachers, community leaders and chiefs attended the ‘Getting Started in Research’ workshop. The workshop sessions were presented twice each day: once in the morning (mostly in Pijin) and once at night (both Pijin and English). Practical sessions were held in the afternoons where research leaders shared their experiences in research, as well as leading out in group discussions. Practical sessions were helpful as participants utilised the knowledge they had gained about identifying research topics, writing aims and smart objectives, reviewing literature and writing a research proposal.

The research projects planned in the afternoon sessions included nine proposals from the 3rd year Nursing students of Pacific Adventist University (Atoifi Campus) and five proposals from Probationer nurses. The research topics related to health issues that are directly relevant to Atoifi Adventist Hospital and surrounding communities.

Health research was first introduced by James Cook University (JCU) researchers at Atoifi in 2009. One of the aims was 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. “The research work in Atoifi hospital has been developing significantly,” stated Professor Rick Speare in his speech during the presentation evening. “The increasing numbers of participants interested in doing research, the involvement of Pacific Adventist University, and local researchers from the Solomons taking the lead in delivering presentations all indicate a positive direction.”

Mr Leon Manehoua, Tuberculosis nurse from Kilufi Hospital, also attended the workshop. Mr Manehoua said,”It was a blessing for me attending this research workshop”. Many participants who attended the research workshops revealed that they learned a lot and have been actively involved. This interest has built upon the previous research workshops. There is a lot of positive feedback, from the participants and, as demonstrated in the evaluations, participants are looking forward for another research workshop in the near future. For now there are at least 14 new research projects to get started!

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

New Hospital Research Nurse position created at Atoifi

Atoifi Hospital has created a new position of Hospital Research Nurse to lead clinical and community-based health research.

Mr Hillary Toloka, a Registered Nurse from East Kwaio with international experience, has been appointed to this position. Hillary will work closely with other health researchers based at Atoifi, including Esau Kekeubata and Tommy Esau.

Hillary has previously been the Charge Nurse in the Outpatients Department at Atoifi and the Tuberculosis and Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) Coordinator. Hillary was also Chairman of the Organising Committee for the successful Atoifi Health Research Symposium held in March 2015. Hillary is excited about his new role and said, "I love working with the community people to improve their health.”

In 2009, a number of Atoifi colleagues, including research leaders Mr Humpress Harrington and Ms Rowena Asugeni, recommended research infrastructure be created at the Hospital to ensure the sustainability of both research and research capacity strengthening activities, see

The creation of the Hospital Research Nurse position demonstrates the Hospital's commitment to using research to inform evidence-based practice, under the leadership of Ms Rowena Asugeni, Director of Nursing and Ms Peggy Kendall, Chief Executive Officer.

If you would like to contact Hillary, please email: htoloka[at]

Scientists and fishers share knowledge

By Tommy Esau, Research Worker

In May 2015, Chief Esau Kekeubata from the Atoifi Health Research Group joined Dr Simon Foale from the Department of Anthropology, Archaeology and Sociology, James Cook University to do a small study of how fishers in Malaita think about the status of their fisheries. Simon studies fish and how people in Melanesia eat, use and manage fish and fish habitats. He has been to the Solomon Islands a number of times, working in Marovo, Western Province and Langalanga, Malaita Province.

Simon and Esau was also accompanied by Matt Young from James Cook University who is comparing the things that motivate spearfisherman in Australia and Solomon Islands (and honing his Pijin!), supervised by Simon.

“It was indeed a pleasure and a privileged to work with Esau on Kwai and Ngongosila islands,” said Simon. “I am also very grateful to Esau for facilitating the transport across from Auki, it looks like we were lucky to get there and back, as the road was in bad shape, but fortunately the rain slowed down enough and by the time we got there the rivers were all passable.”

Fishers spend a lot of time observing fish and as a result they have a rich knowledge of fish behaviour and ecology – where fish go to different times of the day, months, years and what might be their reasons for movement. Scientists also know fish behaviour and ecology.

Simon explained, “Science and traditional knowledge are complementary and together we can achieve better understanding of fish population, dynamics, especially as human population increase, and fishing pressures also increases.”

The data that he was collecting included answers to questions about what fish eat, where they sleep, whether the populations are increasing or decreasing (or neither) and to what extent fishing is affecting fish population. Simon also documented language names for fish. There is interesting knowledge about fish encoded in names. For example, one of the Kwai – Ngongosila names for the crocodile long tom (Tylosurus crocodilus) is ‘Fure waneasi’, which means ‘Cuts the sea snake.’ This names informs us that the fish likes to attack sea snakes, something that most scientists are unlikely to know.

Simon also collected data on what fish people were eating so a list of fish species that are important for subsistence can be compiled. This information can be combined with scientist’s knowledge about the growth-rates and life-spans of different species of fish to get an idea of fishing pressures. If the diet is dominated by short-lived and fast growing species like Sau tofungana (Island bonito), buma and katukatu, when we know that fishing pressure is probably quite high.

The community of Kwai and Ngongosila were happy to share knowledge with Simon and they reiterated that look forward to continue this relationship with Simon in the future.

Findings from this research will be available soon. Please contact Dr Simon Foale or Chief Esau Kekeubata on for more information.

Photo (L-R): Simon Foale, Esau Kekeubata and Matt Young on Ngongosila island
(Photo supplied by Simon Foale)