4 December 2015
New Healthier Lives Challenge takes aim at NZ’s major killers
4 December 2015
Innovative research aimed at significantly reducing the death and disease burden of some of New Zealand’s leading health problems will be pursued through the Healthier Lives National Science Challenge launched by the Hon Steven Joyce at Ōtākou Marae on the Otago Peninsula today.
Healthier Lives is the latest National Science Challenge to be unveiled by the Government. The Challenges are initiated through the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, and are designed to tackle New Zealand’s biggest science-based issues and opportunities.
Funding of up to $31.3 million over 10 years has been approved for Healthier Lives’ research projects, subject to contract conditions.
Hosted by the University of Otago and involving partners from six other New Zealand universities and three research institutes, the Challenge will tackle cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity with the goal of reducing their overall burden by 25% by 2025.
Director of Healthier Lives, Professor Jim Mann, says that this group of diseases accounts for a majority of premature deaths and much of the burden of serious illness amongst women and men in the prime of life, as well as the stark inequalities in health outcomes amongst Māori and Pacific Peoples compared to other New Zealanders.
Research aimed at reducing these inequalities, also by 25% by 2025, will be a major thrust of the Challenge and will involve initiatives led by Māori researchers with strong community involvement.
Professor Mann says New Zealand’s non-communicable disease statistics are very disturbing.
“We have one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world, cardiovascular disease kills more than one in three New Zealanders, eight per cent of the population has type 2 diabetes and nearly two thirds of adults are overweight or obese.
“We aspire to produce innovative research that will, by 2025, help to slash the burden of non-communicable disease by a quarter and by a similar degree reduce inequities in the risk of developing and surviving such conditions that Maori and Pacific Peoples experience,” he says.
Healthier Lives is a highly collaborative initiative encompassing researchers from Counties Manakau District Health Board, ESR, Massey University, Te Roopu Mate Huka the University of Auckland, the University of Canterbury, the University of Otago, the University of Waikato, Waikato Institute of Technology and Whakauae Research, Services.
“In order to achieve our vision we will also be developing close relationships with a range of key stakeholders with aims similar to ours in tackling these four health problems,” Professor Mann says.
The stakeholders include a spread of organisations ranging from government departments through health providers and NGOs to community groups.
The early research projects are:
Professor Mann says the projects are all aimed towards achieving Healthier Lives’ mission of “delivering the right prevention to the right population and the right treatment to the right patient”.
“We are very excited to have the opportunity through this Challenge to pursue research that that will be translated into policy and practice that substantially reduces disease burden and health inequities in New Zealand.
“In terms of this latter aspect of our mission I am delighted that the launch is being held at Ōtākou Marae, which is one of the places where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed.