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.
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)
9 January 2017
Infants sleeping in wahakura (flax bassinets) are relatively safe when compared with bassinets, a joint study between the University of Otago and Otago Polytechnic has found.
The researchers, led by Professor Barry Taylor and Dr David Tipene-Leach of the University of Otago, and Associate Professor Sally Baddock of Otago Polytechnic, concluded there were no significant differences in risk behaviours in wahakura compared to bassinets, and there were other advantages, including an increase in sustained breastfeeding.
The paper was recently published in leading scientific journal Pediatrics.
The study, which was funded by grants from the Health Research Council of New Zealand and the University of Otago, finds evidence that wahakura are relatively safe and can be promoted as an alternative to infant-adult bed-sharing.
“The study was motivated by the concern that Māori and other indigenous populations have greater rates of sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI). This is likely due to the high prevalence of bed-sharing where there has been smoking in pregnancy – a combination that is a major contributor to risk,” says Professor Taylor.
Both bed-sharing and smoking have proved difficult to change and thus the wahakura was developed as a culturally appropriate alternative to direct bed-sharing.
Dr David Tipene-Leach says: “The wahakura is promoted to provide a separate and safer sleep space for baby that can be used in the shared bed and therefore that allows the valued close proximity for mother and baby.”
While wahakura are used by many, to date there has been no direct evidence about their safety.
Researchers recruited 200 predominantly Māori pregnant women from deprived areas of New Zealand as measured by the NZ Deprivation Index. They provided the women with either a wahakura or bassinet during pregnancy and then later compared the risks and benefits of infants sleeping in either device. They investigated breastfeeding, infant sleep position, the amount of infant head covering during sleep, the amount of bed-sharing (without the device), and maternal sleep and fatigue.
Associate Professor Baddock says mothers were asked to sleep babies in either a bassinet or wahakura from birth. At 1, 3 and 6 months mothers completed questionnaires about babies’ sleep and at one month infra-red video was used to record the baby’s overnight sleep.
“Overnight video of the babies sleeping in the devices identified no increase in head covering, prone/side sleep position or bed-sharing (without the device) in the wahakura group, either when analysed according to allocated device or when analysed according to the device baby slept in on the study night,” she says.
When the groups were compared according to allocated device there were no differences at 1, 3 and 6 months in infant-adult direct bed-sharing, but at the six-month interview the wahakura group reported twice the level of full breastfeeding.
“These findings will give comfort to health workers who will be able to confidently promote a device that encourages a form of bed-sharing that increases safety for infants,” Dr Tipene-Leach says.
The Ministry of Health is currently developing a national Safe Sleep programme and this study provides much-needed evidence about the wahakura.
News article courtesy of the University of Otago