From left: Professor Jim Mann, with Dr Will Allen, Margie Apa, Dr Jenny McMahon, Hon Steven Joyce, and Professor Peter Crampton at the launch of Healthie Lives.

From left: Professor Jim Mann, Healthier Lives Director, with Dr Will Allen, Margie Apa, Dr Di McCarthy, Honorable Steven Joyce, and Professor Peter Crampton at the launch of Healthier Lives.

The Governance Group ensures that the Healthier Lives Challenge is on track to achieve its mission.

Its role is also to ensure that the research undertaken: is of the highest standard, meets the expectations of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), and fulfils the obligations of the National Science Challenge contract.


The Governance Group receives advice from:


Dr Jenny McMahon, Chair
Dr Jenny McMahon

Dr Jennifer McMahon currently has a leadership role with ten companies as either Chair or Director. She gained her PhD in Human Nutrition from the University of Otago in 2006. In her previous career, Dr McMahon held the post of Regional Nutritionist for Africa with the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Dr McMahon is actively involved in community service as National President of the New Zealand Red Cross, and Patron and Executive Committee Member of the Dunedin Branch. She also serves as a member of the Advisory Board for the University of Otago’s International Department, and a consumer representative on Mercy Hospital’s Quality and Risk Committee. She was recently named Officer of the NZ Order of Merit (ONZM), and is Companion of the Royal Society of New Zealand, awarded an Outstanding Service Award by the NZ Red Cross in 1989, and the Florence Nightingale Medal by the International Committee of the Red Cross in 1991. In 1993, Dr McMahon was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire.



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Dr Will Allen

Dr Will Allen

Dr Will Allen is an independent systems scientist, action researcher and evaluator. He has more than 25 years of experience in sustainable development and natural resource management.

Through his work he seeks to bridge local, indigenous and organisational perspectives, and help diverse groups work together to develop a shared understanding around goals, actions and indicators.

Prior to developing his own consultancy and research practice in 2010, he worked for Landcare Research where he led the Collaborative Learning for Environmental Management group. A founding member of the Aotearoa New Zealand Evaluation Association, Dr Allen is currently a member of its Southern South Island Branch steering committee. He leads the Transitions to Sustainable Development network for the ESocSci – Engaged Social Science hub. He also developed and manages the Learning for Sustainability (LfS) website as an international clearinghouse for on-line resources around collaboration and innovation processes. He brings experience from working with a wide range of different end-user stakeholder sectors.

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Dr Di McCarthy
Di McCarthy 200x300Dr Di McCarthy is the former Chief Executive of the Royal Society of New Zealand, and has over 20 years experience in various management and governance roles in the tertiary education, science and health sectors.   She is a Director of Powerhouse Ventures Ltd, a Director of the Cawthron Institute, and a member of the governance boards of the Dodd-Walls Centre for Photonic and Quantum Technologies, and the Ageing Well National Science Challenge.

Dr McCarthy is a Trustee of the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research and the Deafness Research Foundation (NZ), and is a member of the Science Advisory Board of the Center for Brain Research at the University of Auckland. She was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to education, a Companion of the Royal Society of New Zealand for services to science, and her qualifications include a BA, BSc, MSc (Hons) and PhD.

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Prof Helen Nicholson
Professor Helen NicholsonAfter graduating from the University of Bristol, Professor Nicholson worked as a doctor in hospital and community settings before taking up an academic position in the Department of Anatomy at Bristol. She moved to the University of Otago in 2000 to become Professor of Anatomy and subsequently became head of the Department of Anatomy. In 2007 she was appointed Dean of the Otago School of Medical Sciences (now School of Biomedical Sciences), and in 2011 was the Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Enterprise) for six months.

Professor Nicholson was appointed as Pro-Vice-Chancellor (International) at University of Otago in February 2014 and inaugural Deputy Vice-Chancellor (External Engagement) in mid-2015. The new role focusses on strengthening external engagement, raising the profile of the University of Otago and attracting high quality domestic and international students to study at Otago.  Helen is also a member of the Confucius Institute Board, the Executive of the International Federation of Associations of Anatomists and an Associate Trustee of Men’s Health Trust New Zealand.

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Dr David Schaaf
Dr David SchaafDr David Schaaf is currently a Public Health Advisor with Pacific Health Development at Counties Manukau Health DHB and has been a member of the Healthier Lives Governance Group since early 2017.

David has previously worked as Senior Advisor with the Ministry of Health where he helped implement Ala Mo’ui: Pathways to Pacific Health and Wellbeing 2014-2018, the Ministry’s strategic document for monitoring the Health Sector’s performance on improving the health of Pacific people in New Zealand. Other roles have included Principal Research Analyst at the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs and senior research fellow at the School of Population Health at the University of Auckland. His research interest has been on chronic disease prevention.


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