Dad with child on his shoulders at the beachAbout Healthier Lives

The Healthier Lives National Science Challenge is a national research collaboration dedicated to achieving healthier lives for all New Zealanders.

The key to this is delivering the right prevention to the right population and the right treatment to the right patient.

Healthier Lives is working on the prevention and treatment of four of New Zealand’s main non-communicable diseases:

  • Cancer
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity

Together, with our Challenge Partners and others, we will contribute to New Zealand’s commitment to achieving the World Health Organisation goals of:

  • Reducing the health burden of non-communicable diseases by 25% by 2025
  • Reducing health inequalities between populations by 25% by 2025

We plan to do this in partnership with stakeholders and communities by generating world class research, and translating our research findings into innovative health policy, practice, and technology, designed for New Zealand’s unique communities.

Achieving healthier lives

Vision

The Vision of the Healthier Lives National Science Challenge is:

Healthier lives for all New Zealanders

We envisage a New Zealand in which the burden of non-communicable diseases (cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity) has been substantially reduced, and equity in the health of our population, particularly in relation to ethnicity and socioeconomic position, has been achieved.

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Mission

In order to achieve our Vision, the Mission of the Healthier Lives National Science Challenge is to:

Deliver the right prevention to the right population and the right treatment to the right patient

This Mission recognises the scientific challenge and social benefits of tailoring prevention programmes to priority populations, and individualising treatments to specific patients.

Achievement of our Mission is dependent on active collaboration with health services and communities, and together building pathways for the translation of knowledge into improved health outcomes.

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Vision Mātauranga

Vision Mātauranga is a New Zealand government policy. It aims to unlock the science and innovation potential of Māori knowledge, resources, and people for the environmental, economic, social, and cultural benefit of New Zealand. Its principles will underpin all aspects of the Challenge.

Within Healthier Lives, Māori will be involved in governance, management, science leadership, research activities, and research implementation.

The Challenge has a cross-cutting principle of health equity for Māori and Pacific people. Cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity are all major health issues for Māori.

Tikanga Māori will inform all research, particularly management of human tissue, genomic, and clinical data.

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Research focus and principles

Given the international and national research context and the particular needs of New Zealander’s, Healthier Lives has identified four focus areas for research, which will link across all research activities:

  • Activating communities
  • Preventions tailored for New Zealand
  • Early diagnosis for non-communicable diseases (NCDs)
  • Better Treatments for NCDs

Alongside these, Healthier Lives has cross-cutting principles to maximise the gain to New Zealand from Challenge activities:

  • Developing and sustaining new research capacity
  • Coordination of underpinning resources
  • Integrated knowledge transfer
  • Ensuring health equity for Māori and Pacific communities

These cross-cutting principles will also bind the focus areas together. For example, the Virtual Health Information Network (VHIN) will utilise and extend data held in the Statistics New Zealand Integrated Data Infrastructure (SNZ IDI) by examining specific research questions related to several focus areas. Not only will this provide unprecedented national reach for the Challenge’s research but it will also contribute to underpinning this important ‘big data’ resource for other researchers.

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Integrated knowledge translation

Healthier Lives has adopted an integrated knowledge translation approach where partnering between knowledge users and researchers supports shared decision making and implementation.

Stakeholders have been engaged in the selection of the focus areas, research programmes, and initial research activities. To date organisations from four broad categories have participated:

  • Government agencies and policy makers
  • District health boards and primary healthcare organisations
  • Health-related non-governmental organisations
  • Māori and Pacific entities with an interest in health

Five high-level research programme areas have been identified:

  • Personalised prevention through new technologies
  • Minimally invasive markers for effective cancer diagnosis and treatment
  • Enhanced CVD and diabetes risk reduction
  • Delivering culturally centred health initiatives
  • Slowing progression of prediabetes to diabetes

In the first five years the Challenge will support research activities through allocation of funding to a set of five core projects, and to a contestable funding round.

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