TED talk about toilets

The Cairns Post 22.09.2014

An exciting event is coming to James Cook University in Cairns, Australia next month. JCU is hosting an independent TED event. TED is a non-profit organisation committed to spreading powerful ideas. Dr David MacLaren, Atoifi Health Research Group member and JCU public health researcher, will present about the complexities of sanitation in tropical areas. Dr MacLaren was quoted in today’s Cairns Post as saying, “Often where there are development projects there is a one size fits all approach. Just because a particular toilet and a particular sanitation option works in one place, it won’t work in others because of the environmental differences.”

Health researchers at Atoifi and their international research partners are committed to improving the health of those living in Pacific island countries. They are actively working with villages close to Atoifi to understand and eliminate parasites in ways that are culturally and environmentally appropriate.

If you would like more information about this talk, please email:

Register to attend TEDxCairns:
More information about TED talks:
More information about parasite surveys in local villages:

Atoifi Health Research Team Conduct Parasite Survey at Kwai and Ngongosila

STH Survey Group on Ngongosila

by Tommy Esau, Research Worker, Atoifi Hospital

A parasite survey was conducted on the islands of Kwai and Ngongosila, East Malaita in August 2014. A health research team from Atoifi Adventist Hospital was supported by researchers from Australia including Prof Rick Speare from the Tropical Health Solutions, Dr David MacLaren from James Cook University and Dr Richard Bradbury from Central Queensland University. Two microscopists from Western Province, Mr Fawcett Kilivisi and Mr Nobo Harrington also joined the team for this important health research.

The parasite survey went from 10-15 August. The community liaison members of the research team worked with the families to distribute sample bottles and discuss any questions the community members had. Faecal samples were then sent to the laboratory that had been set up on Ngongosila Island to identify different parasites.

Three types of Soil Transmitted Helminths were found – Roundworm, Hookworm and Whipworm. Roundworm was the most common parasite found on the two islands, followed by Hookworm and then Whipworm. Albendazole was given to treat people with the highest level of infection. Unfortunately, at the time of the survey there were insufficient supplies of the drug in Solomon Islands to treat everybody in the villages (Mass Drug Administration). As soon as albendazole is available in the country it will be offered to all people who live on Kwai and Ngongosila. This will be repeated every 6 months.

Treatment alone cannot eliminate these parasites in Kwaio and Ngongosila. The establishment and use of formal toilets and improved hygiene will help to reduce the transmission of these parasites. The Atoifi research team is working closely with the two communities to improve hygiene and sanitation.

Please keep checking our website for further updates on this study!

If you have specific questions, please email Lead Investigator Mr Humpress Harrington, Atoifi College of Nursing

Researchers ready for action

The third WHO-TDR funded research capacity strengthening workshop for 2014 was completed at Atoifi Hospital last week. For three days community leaders, chiefs, hospital and College of Nursing staff and students worked to improve their data analysis and writing skills for health research. Based on the practical ‘learn-by-doing’ approach, research leaders assisted workshop participants to manually design a database that could be imported into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. Descriptive statistics were then calculated and interpreted. Participants then practiced writing up a research report, continuing the ‘learn-by-doing’ approach.

Consistent with the two-way capacity strengthening model, Professor Rick Speare, Director of Tropical Health Solutions and Emeritus Professor at James Cook University, explained he also learned new skills during the workshop. “I learnt new ways to teach Excel”, Rick explained. “Previously the mechanics of using Excel have got in the way of the concepts of what one is actually achieving. During this workshop, we asked participants to draw a spreadsheet manually on a large piece if butcher’s paper. Once everyone understood the process, we entered the data into the electronic spreadsheet. We did this as a group by projecting the spreadsheet. I also asked everyone to recite the formulas as they were entered. I was amazed at how successful this approach was! ”

The group then took the descriptive statistics generated by Excel and turned them immediately into the first paragraph of the Results section in a Word document. Being able to see the direct transformation from questionnaire responses to Excel to a paragraph in the Results was an eye opener for everyone, including the facilitators!

Atoifi Adventist Hospital is now battling a measles outbreak in East Kwaio. They have initiated a line listing and cases are being entered into Excel. This will improve monitoring by allowing cases to be counted and the outbreak quantified as it progresses. The outbreak curve can be used to judge success of control efforts.

On November 20, a research symposium will be held at Atoifi, where participants from the research capacity strengthening program, will share research findings with the community, Hospital leaders, Provincial and national health officials.

Photo (L-R): Mr Humpress Harrington, Mrs Helen Polosovai, Eileen Otuana, J. Ri’imana and Tommy Esau work with Professor Rick Speare to manually construct a spreadsheet.

Internet Upgrade Improves Communication

Upgraded satellite dish at Atoifi

Communication between members of the Atoifi Health Research Group is now much easier following the upgraded internet link at Atoifi Hospital. Through the support of WHO-TDR Research Capacity Strengthening Grant, James Cook University Audio-Visual Services and South Pacific Division of SDA Church, hardware has been upgraded and speeds dramatically increased. The new system supports webcams and video-conferencing which enables fast and efficient communication.

Testing took place during the research capacity strengthening workshop at Atoifi between 18-21 August. Planning local responses to the measles outbreak in East Kwaio villages was one of the first official uses of the upgraded system. On 25th August, members of the Atoifi Health Research Group were able to discuss actions to track and respond to the measles outbreak with Emeritus Professor Rick Speare (Director, Tropical Health Solutions) using Skype – something that would have been impossible just one week earlier.