Atoifi Research Group Team Members Speak at University of Michigan Medical School

Story by David Akin, University of Michigan

On 16 February, three members of the Atoifi Health Research Group gave a talk about Atoifi research projects and related topics at the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor in the United States. David Akin and Chiefs Jackson Waneagea and Esau Kekeubata, who work on the Biodiversity Project funded by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, and other Atoifi-based research and health service delivery initiatives, were invited to speak to a seminar sponsored by the Health Equity Scholars Program (HESP). HESP is focused on learning about and addressing health disparities in Southeast Michigan, but invited the Atoifi Research crew because its seminar series also addresses related topics from elsewhere. Anthropologist Akin began the presentation with an overview of religious rules in the mountains of Kwaio, and a brief history of how these have affected people’s access to health care in the past. Kekeubata then discussed how Atoifi’s relationship with mountain Kwaio communities has evolved, and how the hospital is now working to address long-term inequities in the delivery of health care to people there. Waneagea concluded by describing how mountain Kwaio people view these changes and the increased health services that Atoifi now provides them. A question and answer session followed, and many attendees later commented on the rousing success of the event.

For more information about HESP, please visit:

Photo (L-R): Chiefs Esau Kekeubata and Jackson Waneagea at the University of Michigan (photo supplied by David Akin)

Two Members of Atoifi Group Visit the U.S.A.

Story by David Akin, University of Michigan

Two members of the Atoifi Health Research Group have returned to Kwaio from a month-long trip to the United States and Australia. Chiefs Jackson Waneagea and Esau Kekeubata, who work with the Biodiversity Conservation Project, and other initiatives based at Atoifi Hospital, arrived on 30 January in San Diego, California, where they visited the Tuzin Archive for Melanesian Anthropology at the University of California’s Geisel Library. Hosted by Katherine Creely, who oversees the Archive, they examined archived materials collected by anthropologist Roger Keesing, who studied Kwaio from 1962–1993. Copies of many of his papers, provided by the Tuzin Archive, are now held also by the Kwaio Archive, located at Kwainaa`isi in the Kwaio mountains. Another highlight of this leg of their trip was a visit to the world famous San Diego Zoo.

From San Diego, Waneagea and Esau traveled by car with Creely and David Akin to Santa Fe, New Mexico via the Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, Wupatki National Monument (site of several pueblo ruins over 900 years old), Petrified Forest National Park, the Painted Desert, and the Grand Canyon. A Park Ranger who tracks nationalities of park visitors told Waneagea and Esau that to his knowledge they were the first Solomon Islanders ever to visit the Grand Canyon.

In Santa Fe they attended the Annual Meeting of the Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania ( where they took part in the special session “Second Lives: Archiving Anthropological Field Materials” organized by Creely and Akin. Esau spoke to the group about the Kwaio Archive project and its importance for the Kwaio community, and expressed thanks for support it has received from Creely and the Tuzin Archive, and for the work of archivists generally. ASAO’s Pacific Islands Scholars Fund helped fund their travel to the conference. Anthropologist Christine Jourdan, long a friend of the Kwaio community, also helped, and while in Santa Fe she worked with Esau and Waneagea on documenting Malaitan marriage practices.

From Santa Fe they flew to Ann Arbor, Michigan to spend two weeks with Akin and his wife Terre Fisher. There they delivered two lectures to University of Michigan anthropology students—about shell money, and Kwaio marriage—and a third lecture at the UM Medical School about health research projects and practices at Atoifi Hospital. They also visited the UM School of Music Library with ethnomusicologist Kelly Askew and information technology specialist Tom Bray to see how the library has cataloged the newly acquired Sarkisian Collection of African Music, to get ideas for managing the Kwaio Archive’s musical holdings. Later they visited the exhibit “Medicinal Plants and Gardens” at the UM Museum of Art, and also the UM Matthaei Botanical Gardens, which provided a warm respite, since, during their stay in Ann Arbor, Waneagea and Esau enjoyed the second-coldest February in southeastern Michigan since 1875.

Tufala traveled home via Cairns, where they worked with research partners in the Tropical Herbarium at James Cook University and met with Atoifi Health Research group colleagues to plan the Inaugural Health Research Symposium (12 March 2015).

Photo (L-R): Esau Kekeubata, Waneagea Jackson & David Akin visit the Grand Canyon (photo by Kathy Creely)

A curious discovery! Plant parasite found in human faeces.

By Richard Bradbury, Central Queensland University

Researchers from Atoifi Health Research Group working on a recent parasite survey on Kwai and Ngongosila islands, East Malaita have reported a unique finding. Dr Richard Bradbury (CQU) and Professor Rick Speare (JCU) noted the presence of several parasite eggs that resembled hookworm or Trichostrongylus spp. eggs but they had subtle differences in size and morphology. The eggs were identified as belonging to Meloidogyne species, a worm that eats taro and other root vegetables. The interesting thing was that the people who had provided a faeces sample for testing were not actually infected with this worm. Rather, they had eaten raw vegetables and the eggs of the root-knot worm were harmlessly passing through their alimentary canal.

This curious finding was first described in American soldiers during World War 1 and Melodogyne spp. egg passage was reported in helminth surveys with decreasing regularity from that time until the early 1970s. The Melodogyne spp. eggs found in human faeces in East Malaita is the first report of this spurious (false) parasitoses since 1970. This has raised the question, have these eggs been mistaken for something else over the past 40 years or have they just been ignored? This finding was published as a research letter in the prestigious American journal, Journal of Clinical Microbiology.


The Atoifi STH team is available to conduct surveys for gut parasites anywhere within the Solomon Islands. Please contact to discuss this.

For more information about this article, please contact Dr Richard Bradbury or Professor Rick Speare

Reference: Richard S Bradbury & Rick Speare. Passage of Meloidogyne spp. eggs in human stool - Forgotten, but not gone. Journal of Clinical Microbiology. 02/2015;

Photo: The Atoifi soil transmitted helminth (STH) laboratory team working at Ngongosila August 2014 (right to left): Fawcett Kilivisi, Eileen Otuana, Dorothy Esau, John Gwalaa, Dr Richard Bradbury, Nobo Harrington (Photo courtesy of Prof Rick Speare)

East Kwaio Villages Host James Cook University Sport and Exercise Students

By Tommy Esau, Research Worker

Nine Sport and Exercise Science students from James Cook University Cains and Townsville campuses have just returned from a two weeks trip to the Solomon Islands. Accompanied by lecturers Dr Glen Deakin and Associate Professor Anthony Leicht, along with public health researcher Dr David MacLaren, the students went to learn about a South Pacific-style triathlon where bikes are changed for dugout canoes.

Upon their arrival, the students were divided into two groups and headed to the remote villages of Abitona and Na’au in East Kwaio on the Islands of Malaita. In addition to learning about the Pacific-style triathlon, the students spent two weeks (November 30th -12th 2014) instructing villagers on skill and conditioning techniques to improve at soccer and volleyball, the two biggest sporting activities in the villages.

In Abitona village the students also conducted training sessions on swimming techniques, exercises for paddling and techniques for endurance development. There were morning and afternoon training sessions. During the day when the heat is strongest, the students visited old people and others with health–related issues to suggest appropriate exercises to assist them in their health and fitness.

In Na’au village the JCU team worked closely with the community to help them in their quest to continue sports activities such as soccer, volleyball, cricket and Pacific-style triathlons. In addition, the visiting group and community leaders discussed ways to encourage exercise, such as improving their sport field.

This trip from JCU Sport and Exercise and Science students to East Kwaio, Malaita has sparked the interest of many nearby villages. Abitona and Na’au communities have expressed their gratitude to the students for their time and training that was freely offered to them. They look forward to establishing a long-term relationship with JCU Sport and Exercise Science on a yearly basis. This activity complements the ongoing program of public health research through the Atoifi Health Research Group that looks to pro-actively respond 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: (i) JCU staff and students in Honiara preparing to fly to Malaita; (ii) JCU students Kama and Kieran lead a warm up exercise