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Cure Kids Showcases Latest Breakthroughs In Child Health Research To Mark Red Nose Day And 50th Anniversary

In 2021, the Red Nose Day appeal coincides with a significant milestone in Cure Kids’ history, celebrating 50 years of the charity supporting health research to transform the lives of children in New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.

Cure Kids’ Red Nose Day is on Friday 30th July, but the appeal has been running throughout the month of July, with fundraising activities across the country. The goal is to raise $1 million to support research into a wide range of child health conditions.

Cure Kids’ CEO Frances Benge wants to use its golden jubilee to acknowledge the vision of its co-founders, Professor Sir Bob Elliott and Dr Ron Caughey, and the incredible impact the organisation has achieved.

“Sir Bob Elliott and Dr Ron Caughey had the foresight to know that unless we started investing specifically in child health research, New Zealand would continue to slip in the OECD rankings,” says Benge.

“Fifty years on, we’ve funded many breakthroughs, but research never rests. There is still much to do, and we couldn’t do it without the continued generosity of New Zealanders, who have contributed to five decades of investment, amounting to $60 million.

“This incredible support has helped children who live with serious diseases – by discovering the causes of their health conditions, improving their care, and helping to diagnose, treat, and even cure them. Support from kiwis has also kept some of our best medical researchers here in New Zealand, where they can work towards a healthier future for our kids.”

This year Cure Kids is using Red Nose Day to showcase a range of its current research aimed at solving some of the big health issues that still exist. These projects include:

  • A tiny implantable device to measure brain pressure for children with hydrocephalus, led by Professor Simon Malpas. This research will help children like Cure Kids’ 3-year-old ambassador Ben, who lives with spina bifida and hydrocephalus. The device will allow carers to monitor the pressure on the brain remotely, which will improve treatment, reduce risk, and lessen anxiety for parents.
  • Improved hospital reporting of self-harm to reduce youth suicide. This research, led by Dr Sarah Fortune will focus on young people aged 10-14 years who are in hospital after self-harm. The goal is to improve understanding of these young people, and to inform measures to prevent youth suicide, through targeted and effective interventions for at-risk children.
  • The Safe Sleep Calculator to prevent Sudden Unexpected Deaths in Infancy (SUDI), by Dr Christine McIntosh. Over the past 25 years, research led by Professor Ed Mitchell has resulted in a better understanding of SUDI, and enabled carers to reduce risks for their babies. One of the latest tools for prevention is the Safe Sleep Calculator, being used at Counties Manukau Health. This calculator allows health professionals to quickly identify risk factors for babies, and work with whanau to further reduce rates of SUDI.
  • Youth-focused support to prevent rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease, led by Dr Anneka Anderson. Dr Anderson’s team is piloting a patient-centred model of care to improve services for Māori and Pasifika young people who are living with RHD. The goal is to support them to stick with their monthly injections of antibiotics, which they need for at least 10 years to prevent further infections which would worsen damage to their hearts.
  • Understanding experiences of respiratory conditions for Māori and Pasifika children, led by Jacinta Fa'alili-Fidow and Dr Mataroria Lyndon. These researchers have gathered insights from Māori and Pasifika communities about their aspirations for respiratory health for their children, and their specific needs as healthcare consumers. They have also investigated differences in healthcare delivery and access to quality care for different groups, and identified ideas for interventions to improve healthcare services.
  • New antibiotics to fight infectious diseases, led by New Zealander of the Year, Dr Siouxsie Wiles. This research involves investigating whether native fungi contain new bioactive compounds which can kill disease-causing bacteria such as staphylococcus aureus. The goal is to discover new antibiotics that are effective against bacteria which are resistant to other drugs.

Benge hopes the 50th anniversary celebrations will provide vital donations during this annual period of generosity from Kiwi communities.

“We hope sharing the incredible research Cure Kids’ has funded will help Kiwis see the impact their donations have had and will continue to have for years to come.”

Thanks to the generosity of New Zealanders, Cure Kids is currently funding $16 million in child health research, including for child cancer, respiratory illnesses, mental health, cardiovascular conditions, and brain and neurological conditions.

Throughout Cure Kids’ history, significant and life-changing breakthroughs in child health have included the prevention of 200 sudden unexpected infant deaths, the identification of risks to reduce stillbirth by 50%, and the invention of the heel-prick diagnosis test, which significantly increased life expectancy for babies born with cystic fibrosis.

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