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

Women and TB consultation work begins!

Story by Tommy Esau, Research Worker

Yesterday (28 September, 2015), a team from the Atoifi Health Research Group visited three villages close to Atoifi Adventist Hospital, East Kwaio, Solomon Islands. The team was led by Chief John Wakageni, RN, who is the newly appointed Coordinator for Women and Tuberculosis (TB) project. Chief John was accompanied by Chief Esau Kekeubata, Dorothy Esau, TB Community officer and Tommy Esau, Research Worker. We visited the villages of Kwalakwala, Marikwala and Kwabu.

The main objectives of the visits was to begin talking with the women and men about TB, and to start sharing ideas and stories about how women care for people living with TB. Women and men were asked to describe the good things and the challenges of TB. The team also explored ways health services and the community could better support women who live with TB, or who are caring for someone with TB.

For this month and next, the team will visit TB hotspot areas around the coast, near the hospital and in the mountains to do awareness about TB, get more stories and visit TB patients in and around East Kwaio. These stories will inform a series of short videos to promote improved health in East Malaita.

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

Photos (L-R): Dorothy Esau and community members discuss TB; the TB team in East Kwaio.

New article: Measles outbreak and lessons learnt

A new article led by Atoifi researcher Dr Jason Daiu,was published this week in the Western Pacific Surveillance and Response journal. The article is an epidemiological review of measles cases presenting to Atoifi Adventist Hospital (AAH) during the outbreak period from July to December 2014. A total of 117 cases presented at AAH over 19 weeks with 82% of these being 18 years or younger. Rumour surveillance revealed about three quarters of children in one area of the East Kwaio Mountains had suspected measles but did not present at AAH. There were three deaths from this area.

Improvement of registration methods and follow-up systems and setting up satellite clinics are planned to improve measles surveillance and vaccination coverage.

To read this article for free, please visit:

Photo (L-R): Ronald Oleka and Mike Puia provided vaccinations in villages surrounding Atoifi Hospital during the outbreak in 2014.
Photo Credit: Alwin Muse, Lecturer and researcher, PAU (Atoifi campus)

Good research is important for policy makers: Solomon Islands Health Research Symposium

By Tommy Esau, Research Worker

Researchers from Atoifi Health Research Group made four presentations at the Solomon Islands Health Research Symposium, held in Honiara on 27 -28, August 2015. Researchers who attended included Humpress Harrington, Principal of Pacific Adventist University (Atoifi campus), Rowena Asugeni, Director of Nursing, Hillary Toloka, Research Nurse, and Helen Oloifana-Polosovai, Medical Laboratory Scientist, all of Atoifi Adventist Hospital. Also part of the group was Chief Esau Kekeubata, Dr David MacLaren, Senior Research Fellow, James Cook University, Australia and me (Tommy Esau, Research Worker).

The two-day program was organised by the Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS), Solomon Islands National University (SINU) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in Solomon Islands. The symposium aimed to help bridge the operational research – policy gap, to create public health policy informed by relevant health research. The Symposium was held to identify research needs, introduce new research and researchers from within Solomon Islands and strengthen the dialogue between health researchers and health policy makers.

The Atoifi Health research team were among the 74 participants from various organizations who have attended the program. Others were Dr Chris Becha Undersecretary Health , Ministry of Health and Medical services (MHMS) , National Referral hospital, WHO, SINU, Water and Sanitation (WASH), and other health professionals from other Non-Government Organizations.

About 25 presentations were made on Day One of the Symposium, including sessions about determinants of health; Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases; HIV and Tuberculosis, non-communicable diseases and strengthening health systems. Atoifi researchers presented three presentations on the first day, with Hillary presenting about the 2014 Measles outbreak investigation in East Kwaio, Humpress about the Elimination of Soil Transmitted Helminths in East Malaita: One village at a Time and Rowena about Tuberculosis. Rowena’s presentation was entitled, “Community and health service response to culturally safe tuberculosis at Atoifi.

On the day two of the program, the Atoifi Health research team talked about how they established a research programme and identify research questions. The team talked about the establishment of the Atoifi Health Research Group, its significance and outputs, and different methods used to identify research questions arising from the community and health service professionals.
Dr Mark Jacobs (Director of Division of Communicable Diseases -WHO Wester Pacific Region) commented during closing remarks, that “a lot of these presentations are examples of practical research which can be useful for Solomon Islands and other countries. A relationship between research and policy makers is important, to provide evidence based information. It requires right time and regular conversation.”

Dr Audrey Aumua (Country Director WHO Solomon Islands) also added “having national conversation like this creates an avenue to distribute useful information.” Dr Aumua went on to commend the presenters and participants who had demonstrated a high standard of presentations and contributed critical questions. “Good research which produces good evidence is important for health policy makers”, Dr Aumua said. Dr Audery also applauded the effort of Atoifi research team for the high level of presentations and for the team’s enthusiasm, despite the geographical barriers encountered by working at a remote Provincial location.

For more information about the presentations, or the Atoifi Health Research Group, please email: Mr Humpress Harrington

Photo (L-R): Helen Oloifana-Polosovai, Rowena Asugeni, Humpress Harrington, Tommy Esau, David MacLaren, Esau Kekeubata, Hillary Toloka