Developing local models to strengthen health research in Solomon Islands

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Mr Humpress Harrington, former Head of Atoifi campus of Pacific Adventist University is currently undertaking a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) at James Cook University, Cairns, Australia. As a Foundation member of the Atoifi Health Research Group, Humpress is passionate about indigenising models of health research. Humpress’s PhD study is exploring local models to improve health research capacity that suit Melanesia.

Below Humpress shares with us about his recent trip to Solomon Islands. He interviewed 48 government officials, politicians, people working in higher education and people who had undertaken higher degree research or other research training in health-related fields.

Humpress, can you tell us a little about your recent trip to Solomon Islands?
During December I am usually on holiday in Western Province with my family. However this December was special, as I travelled from Australia to Solomon Islands for a data collection trip. I started interviewing colleagues in Gizo at the end of December – I even interviewed some colleagues on the 25th while others were enjoying themselves celebrating Christmas day! After a brief visit to my home village (Chea in Marovo Lagoon) to see my parents, I boarded the MV Andjanet and sailed to Honiara. Because of the cyclonic conditions, a ten hour journey took us almost two days! Once in Honiara, I continued to conduct interviews people. I then travelled to Atoifi, in East Kwaio, Malaita to interview people there. I interviewed 48 people during my time in Solomon Islands.

What were the most surprising things you learnt from the people you interviewed?
It is very interesting to learn that research is something not very many people know about or understand. This limited knowledge of health research and its potential benefits to institutions and the health system indicates a need to encourage locally appropriate health research training in Solomon Islands. Despite people’s limited knowledge about research, individual interest to learn how to conduct research is very high. Another surprising thing was that the provision of relevant and high quality research training that is directly suitable for Solomon Islands is something that nobody has really taken very seriously in the past. Finally, there are currently no tools available to adequately measure the impact or outcomes of the health research training that Solomon Islanders have undertaken so far, either in-country or overseas.

What are your next steps?
My next step is to prepare for my PhD Confirmation Seminar at JCU, which will take place in February 2019. I will then transcribe and analyse the data I have collected. This analysis will inform next set of interviews I will conduct during my next trip to Solomon Islands in March/April. After that I will complete data analysis on all of the interviews and write up my findings. These findings will be reported in a series of presentations and publications in Solomon Islands and Australia.

Humpress Harrington is studying his PhD at the College of Medicine and Dentistry, James Cook University supervised by Associate Professor David MacLaren, Professor Sarah Larkins and Professor Maxine Whittaker. If you would like more information about this research, please email:

Photo (supplied by H. Harrington): Humpress (right of engine) travelling in East Kwaio with colleagues
Story: by Michelle Redman-MacLaren, with Humpress Harrington