Analysing data can be fun!

Learning quantitative analytical skills can be challenging.This can involve extensive time slaving over textbooks and worksheets. However there are fun and practical ways to gain the same skills using a ‘learn-by-doing’ approach.

In September 2019 Associate Professor Peter Massey delivered a series of ‘learn-by-doing’ workshops with final year students at Atoifi College of Nursing. Students worked together with coloured jelly beans to learn how to calculate disease rates, and investigate the prevalence of disease and disease outbreaks in different populations and sub-populations. Coloured jelly beans were used to represent different populations and sub-populations.

Students reported that they had increased their problem solving and analytical skills – and had lots of fun during the activities. Analysing data can be fun!

Sharing results for action: A Zika Survey on Malaita

By Mr Humpress Harrington

In May 2019 PhD candidate Mr Humpress Harrington and Associate Professor David MacLaren worked together with Atoifi Hospital Primary Health Care Department and community leaders to feedback results from the recent study to investigate the transmission malaria and aroboviruses in villages in East Kwaio.

The study, conducted in 4 villages, found 2 - 13% of people tested positive for malaria but did not have any signs or symptoms. Overall 45% of people tested positive for flavivirus (Dengue or Zika) and 46% tested positive for Alphavirus (Ross River or Chikungunya). The team also found that Aedes Albopictus, a mosquito responsible for arbovirus transmission was also found present in all 4 villages.

The result was firstly presented to the Atoifi Hospital and School of Nursing leaders. The results were then presented in open community meetings to the four communities in collaboration with the hospital Primary Health Care director Mr Chillion Fanuabae. Four nights were set aside in consultation with the communities to do the presentations.

Each night, presentation was given with Primary Health Care team followed by questions and answer session and a detailed discussion on what can be done by the communities and the hospital to control the spread of malaria and the arboviruses in the villages.

This is the first time that a community-level study has been conducted in East Kwaio to investigate arbovirus transmission. Therefore the results are very important for Atoifi Hospital, the Primary Health Care Department and the surrounding communities in planning to control vector bone diseases within the East Kwaio region.

The Atoifi Health Research Group wished to thank the James Cook University-led ‘Tropical Partners’ project and the Ministry of Health and Medical Services for making this survey possible.

For further information please contact Mr Humpress Harrington:
Photo: Mr Humpress Harrington sharing study results with villagers in East Kwaio

Chief Esau inspires theme of World Conference on Planetary Health

‘The health of people relies on the health of the planet’ was the key message at the 23rd World Conference on Health Promotion in Rotorua, Aotearoa New Zealand in April 2019.

Atoifi Health Research Group members Chief Esau Fo`ofafimae Kekuabata, Associate Professor David MacLaren and Dr Michelle Redman-MacLaren attended the four day event and were a part of the 1600 people who endorsed the commitment to the waiuro: healthy land healthy people Statement.

The theme of this 2019 World Conference was influenced by Chief Kekeubata. Chief Kekeubata gave a keynote address at the 2007 World Health Promotion Conference in Canada, where he described how land (wado) is fundamental to physical, social and spiritual health. Mr Sione Tu'itahi, Co-Chair of the 2019 Organising Committee of the IUHPE conference was present at this 2007 presentation, and was impressed. Mr Tu'itahi and colleagues then took this as their theme and emphasised the importance of land, social connectedness and traditional knowledge for health of people and the planet in the Aotearoa New Zealand Conference. Known as planetary health, this approach reflects traditional Pacific understandings of holistic health and well-being.

Maori leaders from Aotearoa New Zealand, along with Pacific leaders and indigenous delegates from across the globe shared how land, social connectedness and traditional knowledge is fundamental to human health in the context of their natural environments.

Members of the Atoifi Health Research Group are involved in a range of community, conservation and human health projects in East Malaita. Research Reports, articles, videos and booklets can be found at:

For more information, please contact:

Photo (courtesy Michelle Redman-MacLaren): Chief Esau Fo`ofafimae Kekuabata and Associate Professor David MacLaren in Rotorua

What is causing our fevers? A new study from Solomon Islands

In the past, everyone in remote areas of Solomon Islands who had a fever and no other obvious signs or symptoms was treated for malaria. With improved testing we now know that a lot of people with fever do not actually have malaria. The next logical question was therefore – what is causing these fevers? This is exactly the question being asked at Atoifi.

After 6 months of careful planning and preparation, the Atoifi Health Research Group conducted a study to answer the simple question – what infectious agents are causing fevers in the people who live in or around Atoifi? The team tested 418 people who lived on the Atoifi campus and in three surrounding villages. Tests were conducted for malaria, and also dengue virus, zika virus, chikungunya virus and Ross River virus. All four of these viruses are spread by mosquitoes, so the Atoifi team invited mosquitoes experts from the Ministry of Health to identify what type of mosquitoes are in and around Atoifi.

Testing for malaria was done immediately in the villages. About 10% of people tested positive for malaria – all received medication on the same day. Blood was then taken to the Atoifi Hospital laboratory and frozen. The frozen blood was then sent to James Cook University in Australia to be tested for the 4 viruses. Interestingly the Ministry of Health team found the type of mosquito that can spread all 4 of these viruses. The team is therefore looking forward to the results from the testing at James Cook University to answer the question – what infectious agents are causing fevers in the people who live in or around Atoifi?

More results soon!

For more information about this study please contact Humpress Harrington

Photo: Mr Humpress Harrington and team testing for mosquito-borne viruses in an East Kwaio village
Story by: A/Professor David MacLaren