Point-of-care tests for syphilis and yaws in Solomon Islands: a new research article

Dr Michael Marks from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, along with colleagues from Atoifi Health Research Group, have evaluated the experience of healthcare workers and patients using a newly-developed point of care test for syphilis and yaws in the Solomon Islands.

Solomon Islands has the third most cases of yaws in the world each year, after Ghana and Papua New Guinea.

Dr Marks explains, "Syphilis and yaws are closely related bacterial infections. In many countries where the diseases are found there is limited access to diagnostic testing. Recently a point of care test for both diseases has been developed."

The point of care test was deployed in the outpatient and ante-natal departments of Atoifi Hospital and four rural health clinics in surrounding communities of East Kwaio. Researchers from the Atoifi Health Research Group then evaluated the experience of healthcare workers and patients in using the test.

Ms Rowena Asugeni, Director of Research at Atoifi Hospital, reported, "both healthcare workers and patients experienced the point of care test as a positive development."

The speed with which health care workers could provide the results was appreciated. One health care worker said, "last taem ia, bae mifala givim go lo lab afta wan wik na bifo mifala resivim resolt (before when we have the sample to the lab we had to wait a week to receive the result)."

Patients also reported that improving access to testing at the clinic level was beneficial due to the delays involved in travelling to hospitals for testing. One patient explained, "sendem go lo hospital o sendem go lo olketa nara place testim kam olketa blud ia ating bae hem lelebet slo to so ating hem gud na for okelta makem lo hia nomoa (being sent to a hospital or another place for blood tests is slow so it is good to be able to take it here)."

Longer term and larger evaluations of point of care testing are now required to assess the impact and cost-effectiveness of scaling up the use of the tests to help manage syphilis and yaws in Solomon Islands.

Findings have been published in the PLOS NTDs journal. You can read the article in full for FREE:

For more information, please contact: Dr Michael Marks michael.marks[at] or Ms Rowena Asugeni rowenaasugeni[at]

Stop looking for WASH silver bullets

"Let’s stop looking for WASH silver bullets*: the solution must come from the people."

This was one of the key messages delivered by Dr Dani Barrington (University of Leeds) and Mr Humpress Harrington (Pacific Adventist University/James Cook University) at the recent Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Futures conference held in Brisbane, Australia early March.

Sharing more than close similarities in their surnames, Dr Barrington and Mr Harrington are both committed to embracing local ways of learning and knowing to inform WASH education and engineering practice.

Dr Barrington and Mr Harrington drew on evidence examined during a recent review of literature about the WASH needs of girls and students with a disability in Pacific island countries and territories (details below). They reported to WASH Futures Conference participants that projects in Pacific schools demonstrate the potential for targeted and locally relevant responses.

Mr Harrington, a Nurse Researcher and Atoifi Health Research Group member from Solomon Islands said, “The thing that resonated most with the audience at our presentation was the idea that solutions must come from the people affected, and that community based participatory research is the way to go about this in the Pacific.”

Dr Barrington, an Australian WASH Engineering Researcher from University of Leeds explained, “Almost all practitioners or researchers attending our presentation were working in the Pacific, and all agreed that we need to make sure that we embrace local cultures when designing WASH programs, and not just try to ‘get around’ them”.

The aim of the presentation was to promote an understanding that WASH practitioners in the Pacific can feel that their knowledge of local ways of getting things done is actually very valuable, perhaps even more so than technical WASH knowledge. Mr Harrington reminds us to encourage those being impacted by poor WASH “to be actively involved in finding and implementing their own workable solutions”.

Indeed, the silver bullet might just be solutions that come from the people.

*‘silver bullet’ refers to an immediate solution to a complicated problem


Story by: Michelle Redman-MacLaren

Photo: Dani Barrington and Humpress Harrington presenting at WASH Futures; Photo credit: Elizabeth Gumbaketi via @egumbaketi

Work detailed in the presentation is elaborated on in: Redman-MacLaren, M., Barrington, D.J., Harrington, H., Cram, D., Selep, J., MacLaren, D. ‘Water, sanitation and hygiene in schools to promote girls' health and education in Pacific Island countries: A systematic scoping review.’ Journal of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Development, (in review).

Thank you to partners: James Cook University, University of Leeds, Pacific Adventist University, Adventist Development and Relief Agency, World Vision Papua New Guinea and CQUniversity.

For more information about this story, please email:
• Michelle Redman-MacLaren / @shelmaclaren
• Dani Barrington / @dani_barrington

Local Leaders reflect at Pacific Health workshop: We need to understand how international partnerships work

Chief Esau Kekeubata and Mr Humpress Harrington from Solomon Islands recently attended the Pacific Health Governance Workshop at the University of Queensland (UQ), along with Australian members of the Atoifi Health Research Group.

For almost a decade, Chief Kekeubata and Mr Harrington have been working with the local East Kwaio community, including Atoifi Hospital and Pacific Adventist University (Atoifi campus), to conduct community-based health research to inform health services in Solomon Islands.

Reflecting upon their experience at the Workshop, both expressed surprise that policy makers at international level (especially in Melanesia) want to learn from grass roots health workers and want to have partnerships with grassroots people. Chief Kekeubata explained, “This is different than before”.
Mr Harrington, who is currently conducting his PhD exploring investigates health research capacity and research training outcomes in Solomon Islands (2007 – 2017) also appreciated that participants valued research projects that centralised the principal ‘small is beautiful’ and wanted to work in partnership with grassroots village people.

One challenge for improved grassroots health in Solomon Islands is the need for local health and research governance to be well established and functional in order for health programs and research to work. Chief Kekeubata stated that despite some grassroots people thinking a lack of money is a limiting factor, “money is not a problem - international people have funding to support good quality local-level projects.”
“It is important for community health leaders in the Pacific to understand how international partnerships work”, explained Chief Kekeubata, “and how local voices are respected by many international leaders when they get given a chance”.

Mr Harrington reiterated the importance of including grassroots’ perspective in health governance discussions. “Community representatives like Chief Esau (Kekeubata) need to be present, because they have important story for the conference.”

Along with many others at the Workshop, both Chief Kekeubata and Mr Harrington felt the Workshop was too short. Other grassroots voices also need to be included. Chief Kekeubata is encouraged that, “the next workshop is scheduled to be in Fiji – so this means that more voices from the Pacific can be heard by the international policy makers in health.”

Story by: Michelle Redman-MacLaren

The Atoifi Health Research group are grateful to the Research for Development Impact Network (RDI) and UQ for providing financial support for the attendance of Chief Kekeubata and Mr Harrington.

For more information about the Atoifi Health Research group, please email: Mr Humpress Harrington or Ms Rowena Asugeni, Director of Research, Atoifi Hospital

East Kwaio Chief to contribute to Pacific health governance knowledge

Mr Esau Kekeubata, Chief of East Kwaio and Foundation Member of the Atoifi Health Research Group, Solomon Islands, will be contributing at the Pacific Health Governance Workshop at the University of Queensland, Australia to be held 15-16 February.

Chief Esau has decades of experience working to enact community based health and conservation research in East Kwaio, Malaita island. As a health worker and cultural broker, Chief Esau has enabled research about culturally appropriate health care for over two decades, with a particular interest in improving tuberculosis services that meet the needs of all women and men in East Kwaio.

With the Workshop focus of knowledge translation for the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals, Chief Esau is looking forward to contributing cultural and social knowledge from remote Solomon Islands that will inform future responses to health governance.

“Culturally appropriate health services are important to the health of our people”, says Chief Esau, “and we need to listen to each other to achieve this outcome.”

Chief Esau, and the Atoifi Health Research group members would like to thank the Research for Development Impact Network (RDI) for the financial support they are providing for Esau to participate in the Workshop.

For more information about the Workshop, please visit:
For more information about RDI, visit:

Photo: Chief Esau Kekeubata (centre) and conservation team; photo credit David MacLaren