Atoifi research team prepare for gutworm surveys in Marovo

Gutworm infestation appears to be a common health problem in Solomon Islands as more evidence is collected. Infestation of soil-transmitted helminths (gutworms) such as hookworm, whipworm and roundworm can result in anaemia and a failure to thrive, especially for women and children. These parasitic worms spread in villages when people defecate on the ground rather than in formal toilets. Gutworm surveys in villages in East Malaita have shown that hookworms and roundworm are common, with up to 70% of residents affected in some villages. The major type of gutworm can vary between villages: some have hookworms as the major worm; others have roundworm. However, for many regions in the Solomon Islands there is no knowledge whether these worms are a problem or not. This is the case with Western Province.

This week a team of researchers from the Atoifi Health Research Group, led by Mr Humpress Harrington, met with village leaders in Marovo Lagoon to plan gutworm surveys. Surveys are planned for three large villages, a group of small hamlets and a school on Marovo Island in Western Province, Solomon Islands. The surveys will be conducted by the Atoifi Research Group and will also include local researchers from Marovo Lagoon.

Two public presentations about gutworms were given by Professor Rick Speare, Mr Humpress Harrington and Dr David MacLaren in the villages of Chea and Sasaghana to over 150 villagers. Questions and answer time extended for more than one hour at both villages– it is clear infestation of gutworms is a health concern for the people who live in this rural area of Solomon Islands. Results from the surveys will inform public health responses such as mass drug administration and water and sanitation (WASH) projects.

While in Marovo Lagoon the team also met with representatives of Marovo Medical Foundation, Grant and Jill Kelly. It is hoped the new relationship developing between Marovo Medical Foundation and the Atoifi Health Research Group will result in collective action to improve the health of people in Marovo. For more information about the work of Marovo Medical, see:

The team also visited health centres of Seghe and Batuna, where discussions about facilities and common health concerns were held with local health centre staff. Discussions included how these centres might partner in the future gutworm surveys and the associated public health response.

For more information about Atoifi Health research group’s STH work please email

To watch as recent TEDx talk by Dr MacLaren about STH in Solomon Islands, please visit:

PHOTO (L-R): Humpress Harrington, Fordy Simi, Rick Speare and Michelle Redman-MacLaren in Marovo Lagoon (Photo: David MacLaren)

Atoifi researcher graduates with Masters

Rowena Asugeni graduation

Formal recognition of research capacity has been the goal of a number Atoifi researchers since 2008. Previously researchers have said, “We need to do more research ourselves...not outside people doing research"*. Now one of those research leaders, Mrs Rowena Asugeni, has attained this goal by earning a Master of Leadership and Development from Pacific Adventist University (PAU), Papua New Guinea.

At the Graduation ceremony on Sunday 7 December 2014, Rowena received her Higher degree, supported by family, friends and one of her Masters supervisors Dr David MacLaren (Senior Research Fellow at James Cook University (JCU) and Adjunct Associate Professor at PAU). Rowena was also supervised by Em. Professor Rick Speare (Tropical Health Solutions & JCU).

Rowena explained her research saying, " My thesis focused on community and health service responses to the new, culturally-safe tuberculosis ward at Atoifi Adventist Hospital, Solomon Islands. Providing health services that meet the needs of local communities is essential to reducing disease and improving health - and I found the new TB Ward is an important part of this response".

Rowena's research has resulted in a newly defined leadership development framework for Atoifi that involves three components: health, religion and culture.

Rowena now returns to Atoifi Adventist Hospital in her role as the Director of Nursing and as a research leader in the Atoifi Health Research Group. Congratulations Rowena!

Rowena's thesis is available here:

*These quotes were first reported in an article published by Atoifi and JCU researchers in 2010:

Mass Drug Administration of Albendazole to treat gutworms on Kwai and Ngongosila islands

Story by Tommy Esau, Research Worker, Atoifi Hospital

Results from a parasite survey from Kwai and Ngongosila in August 2014 showed that both islands have a high burden of roundworm, hookworm and whipworm. As part of our commitment to the ethical conduct of research, treatment was given for everyone living on these islands.

On 25th -26th November 2014, a health research team from Atoifi Hospital, led by Humpress Harrington, Esau Kekeubata and Tommy Esau, supported by three second year nursing students from Atoifi Adventist College of Nursing, went to back to Kwai and Ngongosila to provide Albendazole. This is the drug used to treat the parasitic worms. The mass drug administration in both communities reached a total of 384 children and 397 adults.

Residents on both islands were very happy about the work and are looking forward to the next phase. Leaders from both Islands are very supportive and keen to work with the Atoifi Health Researchers who are providing expert advice and assistance to prepare funding applications to improve toilets and increase the number of water tanks.

If you have enquiries about this story, please email Lead Investigator Mr Humpress Harrington, Principal, Atoifi College of Nursing

Photos: (a) Humpress Harrington administers Albendazole for community member; (b) research team holding medication

Atoifi Team Transcends Geographical Boundaries and Time Zones--Violates Space/Time Continuum*

A historic event occurred yesterday as the expanding Atoifi Health Research group met across three continents and five time zones to discuss important health research activities for the people of Malaita, Solomon Islands. As seen in the attached photo, colleagues from Atoifi led a Skype meeting using the recently upgraded internet link at Atoifi Hospital. Mr Humpress Harrington, Chief Esau Kekeubata and Mr Tommy Esau were at Atoifi and linked with Dr David Akin, University of Michigan, Em. Prof Rick Speare, currently working with WHO in Manilla, Philippines, Dr Peter Massey from Hunter New England Health, New South Wales, Australia and Dr David MacLaren and Ms Michelle Redman-MacLaren at James Cook University (JCU) in Cairns, Australia.

Despite the almost ‘MontyPythonesk’ title of this story, serious health research work was discussed. The current tuberculosis project is being finalised, with another community-driven DVD soon to be released (see the Video tab for previous examples of Atoifi’s TB work). The recent Mass Drug Administration of Albendazole to treat gutworms on Kwai and Ngongosila islands was discussed, as were plans for future research and education about gutworm transmission. The upcoming visit to East Kwaio villages by JCU Sports and Exercise Students was discussed along with the new research projects for 2015. Prof. Rick Speare also gave an update of the Ebola preparedness training he is conducting in the Philippines and will be providing Ebola awareness information at villages and working directly with Atoifi Hospital during January, 2015.

This amazing meeting across continents and time zones was possible because of the WHO TDR research capacity strengthening grant that has funded improved satellite communication. We thank WHO for funding this ongoing research capacity strengthening work.

*Title by David Akin, story by Michelle Redman-MacLaren