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Health Grants to Help Kiwis Recover from Brain Injuries

Top Health Grants Awarded to Help Kiwis Recover from Brain Injuries

Research into New Zealand’s worrying brain injury epidemic has been given a boost with three scientists awarded grants from the Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC) to help improve the prognosis of Kiwis with brain injuries. 
Dr Paula Kersten from AUT University has been awarded a Feasibility Study Grant worth $146,608 to examine ways to improve the long-term well-being of some 30,000 New Zealanders who have a traumatic brain injury (TBI) each year.
Findings published in The Lancet Neurology journal in December 2012 showed that New Zealand’s TBI burden is actually six times greater than even the World Health Organization estimated, and far higher than that reported in Europe and North America.
Dr Kersten and her team will train people in the community who have had a TBI in the past to act as mentors for people with a recent moderate to severe TBI. A clinical trial will determine if this novel peer mentoring approach improves TBI patients’ participation in the community.
“Participation is considered a fundamental outcome of rehabilitation for people with TBI,” says Dr Kersten. “Inpatient rehabilitation can only partly focus on participation after hospital discharge as barriers and facilitators to effective participation don’t become clear until the person with TBI is living back in the community.  At this time, rehabilitation has often ceased.”
Mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) accounts for between 70 to 90 per cent of traumatic brain injuries presenting to hospitals and outpatient clinics. Dr Deborah Snell from Burwood Academy of Independent Living in Christchurch has been awarded an Emerging Researcher First Grant of $142,532 to investigate why up to 15 per cent of people with MTBI develop chronic health problems, irrespective of the severity of their injuries.
“This study will examine factors potentially associated with outcomes after MTBI to help clinicians understand why some people do not recover as expected,” says Dr Snell. “The factors we are interested in include changes in brain function, and psychological factors such as coping skills, injury beliefs, personality styles and the impact of stress.”
In New Zealand, only 11 per cent of people with stroke receive any rehabilitation therapy after they leave hospital. This is despite research that shows rehabilitation therapy is capable of improving hand and arm function months or years after stroke. Dr James Stinear from The University of Auckland will use his Feasibility Study Grant of $134,515 to evaluate a new home-coach model of therapy for stroke survivors.
“There are tens of thousands of people living with stroke in our community who have an untapped capacity to recover,” explains Dr Stinear. “The objective of this study is to test and design a ‘home-therapy’ protocol. This will involve a physiotherapist assessing the therapy needs of a person with stroke and training a family member, friend or other volunteer as a ‘home-coach’ to deliver daily therapy in the home.”
To view all the 2013 HRC Feasibility Study and Emerging Researcher First Grant recipients, see the list below or go to
Feasibility Study Grants 2013
Associate Professor Nicola Dalbeth, The University of Auckland
Allopurinol for prevention of gout: A feasibility study
9 months, $144,506
Dr Paula Kersten, AUT University
Improving participatory outcomes in TBI: A feasibility study
12 months, $146,608
Mrs Rachel Parke, Auckland District Health Board
Fluid therapy after cardiac surgery – A feasibility study
12 Months, $137,356
Dr James Stinear, The University of Auckland
Home-therapy for the chronic stage of stroke recovery: A feasibility study
12 months, $134,515
Dr Robert Weinkove, Malaghan Institute of Medical Research
A randomised placebo-controlled trial of paracetamol in febrile neutropenia
12 months, $148,512
Dr Paul Young, Medical Research Institute of New Zealand
Feasibility study of normoxic versus hyperoxic therapy after cardiac arrest
12 months, $148,875
Emerging Researcher First Grants 2013
Mr Joseph Antoun, University of Otago, Dunedin
The genetics of dentofacial growth anomalies
36 months, $149,462
Dr Janine Copp, Victoria University of Wellington
Engineering superior nitroreductases for cancer gene therapy
36 months, $149,850
Dr Marianne Elston, The University of Auckland
Thyrotoxicosis: Assessment of ethnic differences in presentation and outcome
36 months, $150,000
Dr Taisia Huckle, Massey University, Auckland
Restricting the availability of alcohol to reduce alcohol-related harm in New Zealand
36 months, $149,363
Dr Patricia Neuwelt, The University of Auckland
'Acceptability' and access to primary care: The reception process
30 months, $148,730
Dr Suetonia Palmer, University of Otago, Christchurch
Making better clinical decisions to prevent kidney disease
24 months, $138,789
Dr Stephen Ritchie, The University of Auckland
Understanding nasal flora and prevention of Staphylococcus aureus disease
24 months, $148,824
Dr Ilva Rupenthal, The University of Auckland
Reducing the treatment burden of ocular diseases
24 months, $149,994
Dr Deborah Snell, Burwood Academy of Independent Living
Factors affecting recovery after mild traumatic brain injury
24 months, $142,532
Dr Jichao Zhao, The University of Auckland
Living with chaos: Structural remodelling and persistent atrial fibrillation
36 months, $133,600

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