The work done by this team is supported by the St Vincents Hospital "Improving Skin Health in Fiji & The Pacific Trust Fund". Donations to this fund are tax deductible.
2013 Scabies Research Team
Since 2006, Margot Whitfeld and her team from St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney, now partnered with Dr Andrew Steer from the Murdoch Children's Institute in Melbourne and the extended team from the Kirby Institute at UNSW, have been working in Fiji with the Fijian Ministry of Health and the health community, researching and assisting to improve the widespread problem of scabies. Scabies is due to a tiny mite which lives in and on the skin and can cause skin infections including impetigo, boils, cellulitis and even death. Lucia Romani and Aminiasi Koroi have been our long-term project officers on the ground for this. Dr Whitfeld also regularly volunteers at the skin clinic at Tamavua Twomey Hospital in Suva when in Fiji on her regular trips.
The problem of Albinism in Fiji and the Pacific has been the recent focus, and the albinism team made up of Australian volunteers in partnership with Fijian Health and Education teams conducted the first Fiji Albinism Workshop at the Fiji School for the Blind in November 2014. As a result of recommendations made the workshop, the first Fiji Albinism Awareness Symposium was held on the 12th and 13th August 2015. Since that time progress has been made by funding a Fiji Albinism Project officer who has helped establish an Albinism Skin Clinic at the Tamavua Twomey national skin hospital looking for and treating skin cancers, We also help to try and supply sunscreens, suitable swimwear and are working with the schools and community to raise awareness, and improve educational facilities. I in 700 of the Indigenous Fijians are thought to have albinism, making it one of the highest rates in the world.
With the help of a grant from the Australian Government’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) in 2012, and the backing of Fiji’s Ministry of Health, a 3-year trial on the best way to treat endemic community is complete. The first year’s results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Additional funding for another scabies project has been obtained for the years 2017-2020 and Gates Foundation is financing a trial looking at filariasis and the effect of new treatment regimes on scabies, which we are hoping will commence in 2017,
The first meeting of all the trial staff, local doctors and nurses and researchers was held in 2013, the culmination of years of effort by many people. , Similar meetings have been held at the beginning and end of each of the trials to explain the trials to present the results to the research participants and relevant Ministry of Health personnel, The team includes dermatologists, paediatricians, epidemiologists medical officers, nurses, public health staff and statisticians from Australia and Fiji.
A new project is the establishment of a new training program for doctors in dermatology including a Diploma of Dermatology in partnership with the Fiji National University. The first participants are planned to be enrolled in 2018 after appropriate final approvals have been obtained.
Currently all funding to the Improving skin Health in Fiji and The Pacific is primarily used to improve the lives and facilities for adults and children with albinism in Fiji. Both the scabies research and the Dermatology Education projects are now being independently funded through other sources. All Donations are tax deductible and enquiries can be made on +61 2 9966 9667.