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Research from the Healthier Lives Challenge

Research from the Healthier Lives Challenge – 2016 Kōrero Tahi

Early stage research projects, such as using New Zealand’s huge resource of health data to find out the impact of Canterbury earthquake damage on hospital admissions for cardiovascular disease, will be presented at a National Science Challenge symposium this week.

The Healthier Lives National Science Challenge is holding its first research symposium – a Kōrero Tahi - on Tuesday 18 October in Wellington, to be opened by the Minister of Science and Innovation Hon Steven Joyce.

Emeritus Professor Robert Beaglehole, a presenter and world leading expert on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) cardiovascular, obesity, diabetes and cancer in New Zealand with global context says “although the causes of NCDs are well known and some progress is being made in reducing NCD death rates, especially in high-income countries, there is great scope for making more rapid progress but this will require stronger and more coordinated efforts, especially in response to the global drivers of the NCD pandemic.”

Healthier Lives Director, Professor Jim Mann will provide an overview of the Healthier Lives National Science Challenge which focuses on new ways of preventing and treating NCDs such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. He says the Science Challenges are a different way of pulling together many people – researchers and communities – from all around the country, working on the same problem or issues.

“In the Healthier Lives Science Challenge our research is aimed at delivering the right prevention to the right population and the right treatment to the right patient.”

“One of the early Healthier Lives projects is looking at finding early risk factors for heart disease and diabetes in different ethnic groups. Another aims to make health interventions work for Māori communities and deliver culturally-centred health initiatives, to address health inequities.”

“Healthier Lives projects will work towards greatly reducing the economic and health burden of diseases like cancer in New Zealand,” says Healthier Lives researcher Professor Parry Guilford. “Our project to develop minimally invasive biomarkers for cancer detection, with an emphasis on circulating tumour DNA for melanoma and colorectal cancer will help find earlier and more targeted treatments. These cancers have been selected because their incidence in New Zealand is amongst the highest in the world.”

Another early stage project, WellText, aims to co-design a lifestyle support programme with Maori and Pasifika communities. The programme will be delivered by mobile phone - this is called the ‘mHealth approach’. “This approach aims to get greater buy in and engagement from participants because they actually help design the solution,” says lead researcher Professor Cliona Ni Mhurchu.

Professor Mann says: “We want to get people involved in the conversation, think about the research on these major non-communicable diseases, and ways to collaborate in this challenge to combat them. This Kōrero Tahi will also be a conversation with stakeholders and other researchers so we can set the mission-led research agenda and ensure translation of research into policy and practice.”

For more information, check the Healthier Lives website

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