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Lowering NZ’s Very Weighty Problem

Lowering NZ’s Very Weighty Problem - Summit To Set Research Focus

New Zealand can lower its dramatically climbing obesity rate, and have a positive, long term effect on kiwis’ health and the country’s health expenditure. But it will take research and deployment of research findings to help achieve real change.

That was the key message which Gravida, one of New Zealand’s Centres of Research Excellence, will emphasise in its forthcoming international summit and science symposium to be held in Auckland, 9 to 11 June.

Gravida ( funds and directs research focused on “early life events that affect lifelong health and well-being. “There is now a vast body of evidence that obesity, diabetes and heart disease all begin in early life, including in the womb and before conception,” says Professor Phil Baker, Gravida’s director. “What mothers do prior to pregnancy, and in pregnancy, can be highly influential to the health outcomes of their babies as adults.
Gravida leads research in this area through outstanding New Zealand researchers, alongside international research partners from around the world.”

Put simply, says Prof Baker, early life environments affect the biology of the individual and thus influence the risk of obesity and associated disease in later life. “Humans and animals alter their development in response to cues – such as nutrition or hormones,” he says. “There is overwhelming evidence that insufficient nutrition to a baby in the womb, or to an infant, or a mother’s stress, can have long term health effects on the offspring as an adult. These factors can cause obesity, diabetes, bone disease and allergies.”

On 9 & 10 June, some of the world’s leading researchers in the field of DOHaD (Developmental Origins of Health and Disease) who are represented on Gravida’s International College, will lead closed workshops with New Zealand’s researchers. These workshops are designed to help Gravida and its researchers determine the next three to five years of focus for research. On Tuesday, 10 June, Distinguished Professor Sir Peter Gluckman, who was founding director of the National Research Centre for Growth and Development, the precursor to Gravida, will convene a session at 3.30pm at University of Auckland’s Grafton campus that will report back on the conclusions from those workshops.

“These conclusions will set the tone, agenda and content for future research by Gravida,” says Professor Baker. “With the right research, we can change the health of the nation.”


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