We invest in a broad range of research on issues important to New Zealand, and support the development of health research careers. Our mission is 'benefiting New Zealand through health research'.
News and Media
Our latest and archived media releases and news articles.
25 January 2017
Blog by Professor Kath McPherson, Chief Executive of the Health Research Council of New Zealand
Since Donald Trump won the election in November, many in the US science community have been speculating about how medical and health research will fare under a Trump administration. Will funding for US federal research agencies such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) receive a boost or possibly a cut? Will priorities for health research change? And will current levels of interest in, and support for, international research collaboration increase or be challenged?
These and other questions abound, and it’s unclear at this stage just the influence the new administration will have on where research dollars go.
Following the US elections, there have been reports of a step (some say tidal) increase in the number of US citizens, including academics, considering moving to their near neighbour Canada, and even as far away as our shores. Speculation has also been swirling around medical research circles in post-Brexit UK, with researchers there concerned about possible funding cuts – and that dreaded phrase – a brain drain.
All this uncertainly has put a spotlight on the role of government in supporting medical and health research. In New Zealand, we’ll be watching with great interest to see how the US and UK governments approach medical and health research in 2017 as we enter the Trump and post-Brexit era. The past 12 months has seen a heightened focus on health research here too. We’ve seen a landmark increase in funding to the Health Research Council of New Zealand – 56 per cent over four years up to 2019 – and the Ministry of Health and MBIE are currently developing the first ever New Zealand Health Research Strategy.
Increased investment in health research and coordination of effort that is channelled through a cohesive strategy could strengthen our position in this area internationally. Although we are a small country and the amounts invested here are less per head of population than most, New Zealand’s health research capability and capacity is growing. Demonstrating the difference health research makes for our country is a big focus for us at the Health Research Council because it is right that the public sees the significant benefits that come from their investment.
Just how good are New Zealand’s health researchers? Well, research is inevitably a long game and in fact, the big impacts may well come from connected pieces of research rather than from any one study. A recent review of the quality of publications from New Zealand’s health researchers indicates that our researchers are right up there with the best in any country – not in quantity, but in quality, and that is something we should be very proud of.
However, the impact of health research is about more than publications. One person who shows the breadth of this impact (although there are many) is internationally renowned and recently knighted brain researcher Distinguished Professor Sir Richard Faull.
Sir Richard has made a major contribution to the international fight against devastating neurological disorders. The Centre for Brain Research, which he developed and directs, is now one of the most distinguished neuroscience research centres in Australasia. His contribution to health research goes beyond undertaking excellent research, although that is an immense contribution. His passion has enabled him to champion a focus on brain health – particularly aimed at reducing dementia, attracting researchers and students from around our country and internationally to build a world-class brain research team right here in New Zealand.
So, although health research in many parts of the world faces an uncertain future right now, New Zealanders can be confident that its future here looks bright if we remain focused and motivated, invest wisely on research that matters, and with our health and research system working together to do what it takes to make a difference.
24 January 2017
The HRC is now seeking nominations for its prestigious Liley and Beaven Medals for 2017.
The Liley Medal is presented to an individual or team who have had a significant piece of research published in the previous calendar year (January–December 2016) that has made a significant contribution to health and medical science.
The Beaven Medal is offered annually for excellence in translational health research.
Nominations for both medals are due at the HRC by 1pm on Wednesday, 7 June 2017. See our website for more information.
23 January 2017
The e-Asia Joint Research Programme (JRP) and the HRC are seeking applications for funding focusing on one of two health research areas: infectious diseases or cancer research.
To be eligible for this funding, New Zealand researchers must be involved in a collaboration and involve the participation of at least two other e-Asia members.
The HRC has $450,000 over three years available for allocation to one research project.
16 January 2017
HRC clinical research training fellow Dr Jin Russell was recently awarded the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) 2016 New Zealand Paediatric Trainee Research Award for Excellence.
Jin is an advanced trainee in general paediatrics and community child health with the RACP. She is currently completing a PhD in paediatrics at the University of Auckland's Centre for Longitudinal Research – He Ara Ki Muawas - with the support of a HRC clinical research training fellowship.
For her doctoral research project 'Pathways to healthy development in New Zealand preschool children', Jin is investigating early child health and developmental trajectories and how these early life trajectories may be socially stratified. Her research draws on data collected in New Zealand’s contemporary, longitudinal study of child development Growing Up in New Zealand. This multidisciplinary study is tracking the development of nearly 7000 children born in 2009-10, in the context of their diverse environments, from before birth through to adulthood.
Jin’s award-winning presentation was entitled 'Cumulative socioeconomic disadvantage increases the risk of multi-morbidity in early childhood'.
“The research I presented showed that the prevalence of children with multiple chronic conditions (multi-morbidity) in early childhood is much more common than previously reported in the literature,” says Jin.
“Most previously published studies have suggested that multi-morbidity in children is relatively uncommon, at a prevalence of 2 per cent or so. My research shows that one in ten children in the Growing Up in New Zealand cohort experiences multiple chronic conditions.”
She found that when mothers reported higher levels of social disadvantage, their children were more likely to experience multiple chronic conditions at age two. In contrast to previously reported studies, she showed that the relationship remained statistically significant at the highest level of disadvantage even after taking other possible explanatory factors into account.
Jin says that the number of people living with multiple chronic conditions makes this a significant health issue, and challenges the single-disease framework that dominates the literature.
“Children with multiple chronic conditions are at increased risk of other poor outcomes such as educational difficulties, disability, family breakdown, and developmental delay,” she adds.
Her award includes travel and accommodation expenses and the opportunity to present her research at the RACP Congress in Melbourne in May 2017.
News article courtesy of Growing Up in New Zealand (University of Auckland)