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HRC puts Healthy Homework on the menu

Health Research Council of New Zealand Te Kaunihera Rangahau Hauora o Aotearoa

5 May 2008 – For immediate release

HRC puts Healthy Homework on the menu

Children from two Auckland primary schools are bracing themselves for double homework as part of an innovative project backed by the Health Research Council of New Zealand.

When the bell goes for hometime, the nine and ten year olds will be told to lace up their trainers and do something active as well as hitting the recipe books to learn how to cook healthy meals.

The initiative – called Healthy Homework - will be carried out by Scott Duncan and a team from the AUT University.

It is designed to encourage children to adopt a healthy lifestyle outside of school and is one of seven feasibility studies that have been backed by the Health Research Council. Grants worth almost $1m were awarded, each study receiving a maximum of $150,000.

About 180 children will take part in an eight-week programme, keeping a diary of what they eat and wearing a pedometer to record their activity levels. The programme is in addition to their academic study.

Mr Duncan said: “Physical activity and good nutrition are key priorities for New Zealand’s health and education sectors.

“While most health promotion interventions in this age group focus on the school setting, evidence suggests that children are less active and have greater access to energy-dense foods outside of school."

During the 12-month study, which is due to start in August 2008, the team will assess changes in physical activity, dietary patterns and sedentary behaviour of the children.

Those taking part will give feedback of their experiences alongside parents and teachers and it is hoped the findings will not only encourage children to adopt a healthy lifestyle but form the basis of a national Healthy Homework programme.

Other studies that received HRC funding in this round will investigate the feasibility of:

1) using beta-blockers to improve survival rates in liver disease;

2) implementing a goal-based approach to rehabilitation;

3) using blood carbon-dioxide measurement to establish where and when people are most exposed to air pollution;

4) developing ultra-brief interventions for common mental health syndromes in primary care;

5) setting up specialist clinics to encourage Māori to get checked for heart disease;

6) collecting ethnicity data associated with sexually transmitted disease.

If the feasibility studies demonstrate potential to benefit public health, they may be approved for a full research programme and attract further investment.

HRC Chief Executive Robin Olds said: “The aim of the grants is to support research in the fields of public health or clinical research. We are very pleased to support these seven studies, which were selected from 40 applications. We hope the findings will help contribute to the improved health of our nation."


HRC Feasibility Study Projects

Dr Ian Longley
National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research
Exposure Assessment using Carboxyhaemoglobin as a biomarker for Traffic emissions
12 months

Mr Scott Duncan
Centre for Physical Activity & Nutrition Research, AUT University
Healthy Homework: A physical activity and nutrition intervention for children
12 months

Dr Clive Aspin
University of Auckland
Monitoring sexually transmitted infections among Maori in the Bay of Plenty
12 months

Dr William Taylor
Department of Medicine, University of Otago, Wellington
A feasibility study of a structured means of eliciting goals in rehabilitation
12 months

Dr Sunny Collings
Department of Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington
Ultra-brief intervention for common mental health syndromes in primary care
12 months

Dr Tania Riddell
School of Population Health, University of Auckland, (09) 373 7599 ext 86333
Whanau ora cardiovascular risk assessment and management - a feasibility study
12 months

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