Local leaders reflect at Pacific health workshop: We need to understand how international partnerships work

Topics Research partnerships | Health
Chief Esau Kekeubata & Mr Humpress Harrington in Brisbane for the Health Governance Workshop

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 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 and how local voices are respected by many international leaders when they get given a chance.
Chief Esau Kekeubata, Solomon Islands

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.”

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RDI Network is pleased to have funded the travel scholarship for Chief Esau Kekeubata to attend the Pacific Health Governance Workshop, as part of continued commitment to building connections across the region.

This post was originally published by Atoifi Health Research Group here.