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The next generation of health researchers

JUNE 5 2008 ****

Cash to secure the next generation of health researchers

The cream of the country’s emerging health research talent will receive a boost from newly-announced funding from the Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC).

Ten up-and-coming researchers have received Emerging Researcher First Grants as part of the latest round of funding, worth $63M in total.

These include three applicants that were funded thanks to an increase of $4.5M announced for the HRC in the budget.

Dr Robin Olds, HRC Chief Executive, said: “With the media spotlight on young talent leaving New Zealand to pursue careers overseas, this demonstrates the value that the HRC is placing in recognising the importance of supporting up-and-coming health researchers, some of whom we are confident will go on to become world experts in their field.

“Last year we funded seven emerging researcher first grant applications and this year we have been able to increase that to ten. “

Projects include an innovative scheme by Dr Evan Roberts, of Victoria University of Wellington, to better understand the long-term health changes of the population.

His three-year study - Stature and body mass of the New Zealand population, 1850 to 2008 - will consider the difference in Māori and Pakeha health by measuring adult stature and body mass.

In his application, Dr Roberts said: “Though body composition is not a complete measure of health, height and weight data from world war military records and modern nutrition surveys are the best sources for systematically understanding long-term change, and can be compared to international standards.

“World war military enlistees were broadly representative of the male population, while body composition was consistently measured over time.

“Consistent long-term measures of Māori and Pakeha health since the nineteenth century will increase our understanding of the social determinants of health, and how political and economic change affected the health of the New Zealand population.”

Another emerging researcher first grant was awarded to Dr Daniel Exeter, of the University of Auckland’s Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics in the School of Population Health.

He will map geographical patterns of rates of invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD) to identify high-risk areas and help better target immunization programmes in New Zealand.

Higher rates of IPD are related to social circumstances, including area-level deprivation and ethnicity, with admissions higher for Māori and Pacific peoples.

Dr Exeter will use spatial analysis and statistical modelling skills gained during his PhD about mortality inequalities in Scotland, which he studied at St Andrews University, and transfer them from the Scottish setting to the New Zealand environment.


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