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News and Media
Our latest and archived media releases and news articles.
28 November 2016
The HRC has announced $650,000 in funding for four Ngā Kanohi Kitea Māori knowledge and development research grants.
This funding provides an opportunity for iwi, hapū and community groups to investigate a community identified area of Māori health need. It is targeted at groups who have not had significant research funding, but who want to build their capability and knowledge in this area.
The HRC is pleased to support community organisations in leading research driven by their own needs. Because of their unique position, these groups have great potential to make real changes in their communities.
Ngā Kanohi Kitea full project grants (2016)
Dr Tanya Allport, Te Whānau o Waipareira Trust
Kimihia te Hauora Hinengaro: Pathways for Māori mental health
12 months, $59,800
Read lay summary
Mrs Tracey Godfery, Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa
Te Ohu Mo Papatuanuku: Contaminated site toolkit for community use
18 months, $200,000
Read lay summary
Ms Erana Hond-Flavell, Te Pou Tiringa Incorporated
Improving child and whānau health outcomes - intervention in early life settings
18 months, $200,000
Read lay summary
Ms Toni Roberts, Te Puna o Ngā Kākano Charitable Trust
He Puna Reo He Puna Oranga Whānau: Impact of urban Puna Reo on health and wellbeing
18 months, $188,970
Read lay summary
25 November 2016
A new, in-depth study of children and teenagers struggling with weight issues highlights their poor eating habits and concerning volumes of sugary drink consumption on a daily basis.
Eating habits such as comfort eating and eating large amounts of food were worryingly common, and the study revealed clear differences in diet between young people living with obesity and national averages.
The 239 tamariki in the study were assessed when they enrolled in a community-based 12-month intervention programme called Whānau Pakari. Aged 4-16, the participants had body mass indexes (BMIs) in the clinically overweight or obese range, and many had weight-related health problems. Māori and Pakeha each made up 45 per cent of the group, with the remaining 10 per cent from other ethnicities.
- Two-thirds (67 per cent) of participants experienced excessive hunger and ate large amounts of food
- Half didn’t feel full after a meal
- Almost two-thirds (62 per cent) reported comfort eating
- Children ate 3.5 servings per day of fruit and vegetables on average, markedly below the recommended five daily servings
- Children were not eating breakfast every day
The study was a collaboration between the Liggins Institute at the University of Auckland, Taranaki District Health Board, and Sport Taranaki, with funding from the Health Research Council of New Zealand.
“This study highlighted that there are lots of factors affecting eating behaviour in these children,” says Dr Yvonne Anderson, Liggins Institute researcher, Taranaki paediatrician and co-author of the study.
“As health professionals, when we see children with weight issues, we need to address the psychological dimensions of their eating.”
Researchers also found that many of the children and adolescents were drinking sweet drinks on a daily basis (a median volume of 250ml across the group).
“While an extra 250ml of sweet drinks might not seem much, it means these children are consuming an extra 100kcal a day of free sugar, and it’s been estimated that extra energy intake of not much more than that – 120kcal a day – leads to a 50kg increase in body weight over 10 years,” Dr Anderson says.
“One can of sweet drink contains three day’s worth of the recommended added sugar for young children.
“It’s not just about fizzy drink but all sweet drinks. Many of the children are drinking powdered fruit drinks, and these were the most popular non-dairy beverage in children when this was looked at nationally in 2002. Health policy needs to reflect this.”
Obesity is everyone’s problem, and we’re all part of the solution, she says.
“We all need to work together to address the food and drink children have access to in their everyday lives – at home, school, events, family gatherings - and ensure that the healthy choice is the easy choice. We need to be role models for our children.”
Nationally, an estimated 85,000 children aged 2-14 years are obese, and about 4,500 in Taranaki, according to the New Zealand Health Survey.
Whānau Pakari means “Healthy self-assured whānau who are fully active”. The programme, which is still running, involves regular home visits and support from a multi-disciplinary team of health professionals to help whānau make healthy lifestyle changes.
The study was published in PLOS-ONE Journal.
News article courtesy of the Liggins Institute at the University of Auckland
24 November 2016
This is a very difficult time for New Zealanders dealing with the aftermath of the latest earthquakes – especially for those who have lived through the trauma and upheaval of the previous seismic events, and whose lives are still disrupted. The thoughts of the HRC team and the Board are with everyone that has been affected.
When natural disasters occur, researchers are keen to learn from the situation to predict, prevent or ameliorate adverse consequences resulting from future events or guide future responses. However, it is important to remember that research activity in disaster zones carries heightened ethical risk.
As a resource for researchers who wish to work with vulnerable communities, we are posting here the Ethical Guidelines for Post-Disaster Research, produced by The Natural Hazards Social Science Panel. It is also timely to remember clause 20 of the Declaration of Helsinki1 relating to vulnerable populations: “Medical research with a vulnerable group is only justified if the research is responsive to the health needs or priorities of this group and the research cannot be carried out in a non-vulnerable group. In addition, this group should stand to benefit from the knowledge, practices or interventions that result from the research.”
The HRC has supported research relating to the Canterbury earthquakes. In 2011, we partnered with the Canterbury Medical Research Foundation to invest in five projects needed to guide the response to future events, and understand the impact that earthquakes and the subsequent destruction and disruption have on health. A summary of the successful projects can be found here. Key findings from ‘Building community resilience: Learning from the Canterbury earthquakes’ are also provided on our website. In addition, the HRC has supported the Christchurch Health and Development Study to look at the long-term personal impact for Christchurch earthquake victims.
The HRC is reviewing how it might provide timely and responsive funding for research related to public health crises, in ways that best support affected communities. We welcome your feedback.
If you are thinking of undertaking health-related research with communities affected by the earthquakes and would like to talk to someone at the HRC about this, please contact:
Dr Tania Pocock, Group Manager, Research Policy, Strategy and Evaluation
1 WMA Declaration of Helsinki - Ethical Principles for Medical Research Involving Human Subjects, World Medical Association, http://www.wma.net/en/30publications/10policies/b3/, accessed 22 Nov 2016.
23 November 2016
Two Wellington health researchers have been jointly awarded the prestigious Liley Medal for their outstanding contributions to health and medical science at New Zealand’s top research honours awards.
Cell biology expert Professor Mike Berridge (pictured right) from the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research and intensive care specialist Dr Paul Young from Capital & Coast District Health Board and the Medical Research Institute of New Zealand (MRINZ) both received a Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC) Liley Medal at the Royal Society of New Zealand’s Research Honours Dinner in Christchurch this evening.
This is the first time since 2008 that the HRC Liley Medal has been awarded to two people in the same year. The decision to award two medals was made because the researchers’ studies, while very different, were considered equally important in terms of potential impact.
Professor Berridge was one of the lead researchers in a landmark paper that demonstrated for the first time the movement of mitochondrial DNA between cells in an animal tumour model.
This new transfer to tumour cells, which was published in the high impact biological journal Cell Metabolism last year, showed that after mitochondrial DNA was removed from mouse models of breast cancer and melanoma, replacement mitochondrial DNA was gathered from surrounding normal tissue. After adopting this new DNA, the cancer cells then went on to form tumours that spread to other parts of the body.
Professor Berridge says that he and his research colleague An Tan were expecting tumour growth but were surprised when they found the tumour cells contained mitochondrial DNA from surrounding cells.
“Our initial response was that these cells must have slowly adapted to growing without mitochondrial DNA. When we detected mitochondrial genes in the tumour cells, we thought we had made a mistake, while reviewers of earlier manuscripts thought we must have had some residual mitochondrial DNA in the cells we were using,” says Professor Berridge.
“With the help of our overseas collaborators, we were able to build a solid case for mitochondrial gene transfer between cells and have now shown that it involves the transfer of whole mitochondria.”
HRC Chief Executive Professor Kath McPherson says Professor Berridge and his team’s novel discovery, partly funded through a HRC Explorer Grant that supports transformative research at an early stage, challenges core ideas in science, and opens up new fields for understanding normal human physiology and disease.
“This discovery could offer significant insights into the evolution and spread of cancerous tumours. It also lays important groundwork for understanding human diseases other than cancer, since defective mitochondrial DNA accounts for about 200 diseases and is implicated in many more, including neurodegenerative and neuromuscular disorders,” says Professor McPherson.
Dr Paul Young (pictured right) received his Liley Medal for leading the HRC-funded SPLIT trial, the largest clinical trial ever conducted exclusively in New Zealand intensive care units (ICUs) and the highest impact study in the field of intensive care medicine for 2015.
Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the SPLIT trial compared the effectiveness of the two most commonly used intravenous fluid therapies for intensive care patients – saline solution and a newer alternative fluid with lower chloride concentrations called Plasma Lyte®.
The study, which was designed by Dr Young and fellow frontline ICU doctors, was in response to recent data suggesting that saline solutions may increase the risk of patients developing kidney failure.
Dr Young says the study showed that the two fluids had similar outcomes, and that using saline did not increase the risk of developing kidney failure compared with using Plasma Lyte®.
“The results are of major significance for global public health because they provide reassurance about the safety of intravenous saline, which is currently administered to more than a million patients around the world every day,” says Dr Young.
“Saline is also cheaper than the newer fluids like Plasma Lyte® by between 50 cents and eight dollars, depending on the country, so this study also has the potential to lead to health care cost savings of millions of dollars every day on a global scale.”
Dr Young says outcomes for ICU patients in New Zealand are among the best in the world, and he hopes this award will highlight to clinicians from other disciplines just what can be achieved through collaborative research.
“I’d like to acknowledge the help and support I’ve received on this study from ICU specialist colleagues from around the country, from the hundreds of ICU nurses who cared for the patients, to the ICU research coordinators who did the real work, and the MRINZ coordinating centre staff. Most of all, I’d like to thank all the patients who participated in the study.”
HRC Chief Executive Professor Kath McPherson says Dr Young’s study, which was coordinated by MRINZ, involved 2,278 patients from four New Zealand ICUs. Remarkably, she says, it was completed in 28 weeks of active recruitment at a cost of $200,000 and yet is likely to save millions of dollars for New Zealand and health systems globally, making it an excellent return on investment.
“Paul and his team’s findings from this study are currently the best evidence that exists in this field and will likely have major implications for health care delivery and the management of ICU patients in New Zealand and around the world,” says Professor McPherson.
“Despite Paul being involved in research for only six years, he’s already achieved so many impressive outcomes with the support of the Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care Society Clinical Trials Group. He’s currently leading six HRC-funded studies, including a HRC-funded trial to find out if saline or Plasma Lyte® leads to a lower risk of death in the sickest ICU patients, and he was just last month awarded a HRC clinical practitioner research fellowship to look into the prevention and treatment of fever in the ICU.”