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Māori health researcher scores hat-trick of awards

5 June 2008

THURSDAY JUNE 5 2008 ****

Māori health researcher scores hat-trick of awards

A talented health researcher whose work focuses on Māori inequalities has scored a hat-trick of successes in the latest Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC) funding round.

Dr Lis Ellison-Loschmann (Te Atiawa, Ngati Raukawa), who works at the Centre for Public Health Research at Massey University, has received funding for two projects worth nearly $2M and is part of a $2.5M team programme.

The first study aims to find out why Māori are up to five times more likely to get stomach cancer than non- Māori and the second looks at inequalities in breast cancer survival among Māori and Pacific people.

Dr Ellison-Loschmann is also a researcher with Professor Neil Pearce’s team, which has received nearly $2M for a programme into work-related deaths and diseases, where her expertise will help focus on occupational exposures in Māori.

Stomach cancer in Māori will be a five-year case-control study to identify the major risk factors of stomach cancer. Factors may include lifestyle, physiological, genetic and gene-environment interactions.

As part of her second study - Understanding the determinants of inequalities in breast cancer survival – Dr Ellison-Loschmann will recruit 2,100 women newly diagnosed with breast cancer through the Cancer Registry.

Over three years she will investigate possible reasons for the inequalities in breast cancer survival, focusing on the role of access to primary care and pathways through care from diagnosis to treatment.

Another researcher who has been funded – Dr Beverley Lawton – aims to improve the life expectancy of Māori women with womb cancer.

Dr Lawton, of the Department of Primary Health Care and General Practice at the University of Otago, Wellington, was awarded $707, 474 for her study: Wähine Hauora-Inequalities in uterine cancer: exploring the pre-diagnosis gap.

Statistics show that Māori women are more likely to get uterine (womb) cancer than non-Māori, and are more likely to die from it.

Dr Lawton (Ngati Porou) aims to investigate why Māori women are generally slower to get access to specialist assessment, which can lead to early detection and better survival rates.

The 30-month study is one of nine that have been funded by the HRC to help improve Māori health and wellbeing.

Dr Robin Olds, HRC Chief Executive, said seven out of the 13 Māori applications received for HRC Project Grants were funded – 54 per cent – as well as two Emerging Researcher First Grants focusing on Māori health.

“We were pleased to be able to maintain a high success rate for applications to fund research projects focusing specifically on crucial Māori health issues – the standard was very high,” he said.


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